Doug Rushkoff, author of the recently released book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, floated this idea of light engagement in his recent column on LinkedIN. In it, he offers his take on why Yahoo bought Tumblr. Basically, it was for the kids. Wrapped up in this is the idea that if you want to engage millennials, then you, as an digital entity, have to operate and present in a way that’s aligned with this generation’s aesthetic and set of assumptions about how the digital world should work. It’s about quick, disposable interactions that don’t leave a permanent digital trail. Rushkoff cites SnapChat, Instagram and, obviously, Tumblr. I’d add Vine to that, as well. This is where the idea of “light engagement” comes from:
The less weighty and permanent and stickily complex a social networking experience, the less it feels like it’s the province of marketers, too. Every keystroke, recommendation, follow, like and update is recorded and stored. Kids are fully aware that the more involved the data footprint they create somewhere, the more it will be used against them by big data researchers looking to predict their future activities and then market to them the things they don’t yet know they’re about to desire. That’s just creepy.
This is why the real job of younger companies is to prove they are not your parents’ social apps. That makes it particularly challenging when a hip young person’s social app is swallowed up by a big, old, uncool web company.
And most of us are so NOT ready for what this shifting set of expectations means for the ways we design, create and maintain digital and mobile properties. I mean, do we really get how the ways this generation sees the world is about to upend our assumptions? Like I said we’re not ready.
In the meantime, keep this idea of light engagement in mind. We’ll be coming back to it.