Group chat app Geneva is setting out to disrupt some established norms: unlike its peers, the group communication platform is jettisoning familiar benchmarks like follower counts and Likes. An unconventional approach, perhaps, but people are responding: the app’s user base has quadrupled since the beginning of 2022.
Unique as Geneva is, it’s making its way in an undeniably crowded field. What exactly are its chances in an arena where social apps can enjoy a moment in the sun, only to disappear seemingly overnight? Let’s take a closer look.
Geneva Has a Historic Name — and Aspirations
Geneva was launched in March 2020, named by founder Justin Hauser after the Geneva Conventions. If the historic treaties created after World War II were meant to define what humane treatment of people during wartime should look like, Hauser wants Geneva the app to redefine what it means to connect online. Hauser sees the treaties as having made the world a better place. If he has his way, his app will do much the same thing, fostering healthy conversation in a safe place. As noted on the Geneva website, “We believe technology products can bring out the best in us or the worst in us and we’ve poured our hearts and minds into ensuring Geneva is for the better.”
It’s no pipe dream. Geneva has walked the walk from the get-go, eschewing the sense of exclusivity fostered by services like Clubhouse and its invite-only model. Instead, Geneva leans into the idea of inclusivity. Come one come all seems to be the mandate — an attitude that embraces wide-ranging interests as well as personalities. That said, the app takes protecting its users seriously. Trolls need not apply.
The setup is pretty simple: users log in, at which point they can join one of the existing “homes” on the app, or create their own. The core architecture here draws its inspiration from Slack, and what drives the app is the idea of creating community around shared passions, which on Geneva run the gamut from thrifting to wellness. What’s missing from this equation? The social pressures that heat up when users become consumed with user numbers, Likes, or a highly curated online persona. “Rooms” within Geneva further define user experience:
- Chat rooms: Similar to Slack channels, the chat rooms facilitate casual, spontaneous conversations, whether users are making plans or sharing favorite pet photos.
- Post rooms: Announcements, internship bulletins, and recipes all find a home in the post rooms, which allow for structured, asynchronous sharing of content.
- Audio rooms: Likened to a big group phone call, audio rooms allow users to pop in and out for casual conversation or scheduled meetings.
- Video rooms: For the times when we want to see one another’s faces, video rooms are go-tos for everything from book club discussions to live study meets.
- Broadcast rooms: A nice alternative for hosting planned virtual events or expert panels, broadcast rooms allow up to nine people to live stream to thousands. Audience members can “raise their hands” and access the stage, or communicate via a live chat feed.
Geneva combats the ubiquitous threat of misinformation via features like “Gates,” which use “House Keys” and questionnaires to control access to Geneva homes and manage who can or can’t exert control over message moderation or invites.
Influencers Dig Geneva
Influencers are spiking an interest in the platform, drawn by the promise of real connection. The Washington Post notes, “[N]ow content creators are setting up accounts on chat apps, like Geneva . . . where they can connect privately and directly with people they know are listening.”
The intimacy of a give-and-take chat is appealing, as content creator Kate Glavan notes: “It’s more about what the community wants instead of just [me and best friend Emma Roepke] posting,” she says.
In short, the old model — creators putting out a steady stream of content, sometimes into the void — has been upended. So is the natural hierarchy that can be created between creators on the one hand and users on the other.
In Geneva, home creators don’t direct the discussion; they simply provide a place for people to connect. It’s like that great friend in college who always knew how to bring people together and create a space where the fun could commence. Again, we’re talking friendly, troll-free fun: as Hauser puts it, “People are fed up and they’re seeking salvation in safer spaces.” If Hauser has his way, that safe space will be Geneva.
Why Geneva Matters to Brands
Brands are taking note, though the app is currently free and does not incorporate paid advertising tools. Suncare brand Supergoop and haircare line Ceremonia are examples of brands that have created Geneva homes and rooms to foster conversation, offer product training, and facilitate product development.
And for marketers interested in reaching Gen Z, Geneva may prove a profound tool. Gen Z is drawn to the ideas of community, mutual support, and cooperation, all mandates that Geneva embraces. And because Gen Zers like to do something — whether it’s engage in discussion or tap and click — the Geneva platform, predicated as it is on the idea of engagement, is an obvious go-to for the Gen Z demographic.
The platform also underlines a powerful lesson for brands: numbers (as in Likes and user stats) aren’t everything. In fact, Geneva seems to be out to prove that less can be more. The one-on-one connections fostered by the app can offer a profound exchange that almost certainly pays off for businesses in the long run, regardless of that business’s size. When a consumer has a question about a product, the importance of that question getting answered by a human being — not an algorithm, not a phone tree, in a friendly space — cannot be overstated. In Geneva, users are heard.
And being heard creates loyalty.
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