Extend new engagement platforms with elearning


engagement-post-bannerTiming.  Last week while Google revealed their new focus on engagement at Google I/O 13, I was at Boulder Startup Week, where I learned about LinkSmart, a local startup focused on engagement.  Then yesterday, fresh on the heels of I/O, Google’s Think Insights group announced their engagement initative.

There are major culture and technology trends at play. Google and LinkSmart are making the connection with two very different types of engagement platforms.  After digging in to learn more about the different platforms and perspectives, I see a compelling case for incorporating elearning into the marketing


Google set out to increase engagement through a revamped media-heavy design that fosters self-driven, socially influenced exploration.  It remains to be seen how the new design will be monetized.

In many ways LinkSmart’s approach is the flip side of what google is doing.  Rather than focus on lavish linking and rich media exploration, Linksmart aligns site traffic with publisher goals through dynamic in-content links.  Crucially, LinkSmart monetizes traffic by influencing usage paths.  And it’s working.  Linksmart just raised $5 million in Series B to further develop their platform.

The hyperlink is dead, long live the hyperlink

Viewing the project through their advertising industry lens, the Google Insight group’s focus is on media strategy and brand engagement.  Their actionable intelligence comes from looking for signals, based primarily on explicit social behavior, across different channels.   This strategy ties into the vision of an emerging choice-based economy.

LinkSmart doesn’t need to uncover and interpret signals across multiple channels to derive intent because because they’re focused on simple, in-content links.  Publishers provide the context in their content and readers send a clear signal by processing the content and clicking in-content links.

The in-content link cuts to the essence of context and intent.  It’s a streamlined experience easier to manage for both publishers and readers.  However, google’s demonstrated commitment to fiber, design and machine learning will make rich media increasingly nimble.  It will be interesting to see if LinkSmart extends their platform to support rich media.

The creative class

In the Engagement Project white paper [PDF], team Insights coins the term “C generation”.  The C generation is defined by their proclivity for:

  • Creation

  • Curation

  • Connection

  • Community

The cultural anthropologists, psychologists & digital creators consulted for Google’s research define the C generation as essentially artistic.  Generation C finds value in the examination of everything they encounter.  They want to hear the story, learn about products and understand why they exist.  They are students of the everyday experience.

As people become more educated and technologically advanced, we can expect a corresponding increase in demand for products and services designed for effective knowledge transfer.  We already see effects of this growing demand in the massive disruption of traditional education.

The learning everywhere web

As the web increasingly surrounds us, the barriers to education are obliterated.  Through  innovations such as MOOCs, gamification and mobile learning, the online learning experience has quickly become far more diverse and dynamic.  Pervasive connectivity creates a learning everywhere web, where informal learning interactions are valuable signals worth tracking for both learners and publishers.  Until very recently, tracking informal learning has not been practical.  Now, exciting new development like common cartridge and ADL’s experience API (xAPI) are coming online designed specifically to enable the smaller, less obtrusive learning experiences that define the learning everywhere web.

Combining modern learning interaction design with their backend intelligence might make the LinkSmart platform a great fit for adaptive learning, a vibrant area of learning technology.

Increasingly, people will seek deeper knowledge for making better choices.  An elearning + marketing strategy is essential for building the products and services that engage them.

By text or tableau

Whether content is delivered through in-content links or rich media, quality and relevance of content are the keys to engagement.  Google’s new design strategy and LinkSmart’s successful platform point the way to trends in engagement technology.  Interpreting explicit and implicit signals to judiciously integrate elearning can extend engagement, greatly increasing value for publishers and consumers.