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Passwords Are So Passé: Welcome to Social Signin

The practice of collecting user contact data for newsletter subscription or for a member-based website is more frequently done using Facebook (Facebook Connect), Open ID or other existing login profiles. Collecting information using these other profiles instead of just an email/password combo, allows the website owner to collect rich and intelligent profiling information about their subscribers immediately.  User data is equal to gold in the marketer’s world, so the rise of social sign in couldn’t come at a better time!

But of course, nothing on the web is perfect...


How and When Social Logins Work Best

Websites who ask their site visitors to sign up often do this through the use of a newsletter signup widget that simply collects the user’s email and stores it in their database. Email marketing authority, Dialog Insight, says that website owners should be collecting email addresses at every entry point and this includes the email address associated with a person’s social account. When a user signs in to a website with a social profile like Facebook or Google+, the database is automatically populated with the email address associated with that user’s social account. By using social sign in, the database can also collect public profile information like user interests and demographic information, all of which is predetermined using the API communicating with a particular social platform.


Benefits: Simplifying Sign in with Sophisticated Social Data

Websites are increasingly offering both the option to sign in using a social media profile or to create an account using an email address. Website visitors are typically pleased by social logins because they don’t have to create another login and password, thereby helping to reduce “password-fatigue” and simplifying the process of signing in. This practice gives the user a centralized log-in for your site and the other sites they interact with.

According to Shop Socially, website owners who use social logins benefit from nearly a 50% reduction in shopping cart abandonment and a 33% increase in sign-ups. Let’s be honest, not having to sign up to this website and that website is one less thing to remember, which is typically a huge relief when trying to access content on a website.

Marketers can rejoice too. The database of email addresses collected by site owners is extremely useful for the marketing team. They use the sign-up/opt-in subscriber list for a myriad of marketing techniques. Consider email offers like promotions, contests or giveaways as well as surveys, polls or even a simple company newsletter. Social media login information is obviously a step up because marketers can use all the same material listed above, but they can also target users on social media platforms with personalized campaigns. Each time the company interacts with the user there is an opportunity for participants to disclose additional information about themselves, their interests, their behavior, their preferences - and an opportunity for marketers to collect this information. Using datasets made up of user profile information, marketers can feed this information back into the database to segment users further and create more personalized marketing experiences.

In the case of Facebook Connect, there are additional benefits like the possibility to attract this person’s friends.  You can also create Facebook campaigns to target only your subscribers on there, or to exclude them. For example you may want to create a campaign for any existing brand enthusiast asking them to invite a friend to like your page. On the other hand you can create a campaign for new subscribers only and make sure you don’t ask your existing subscribers to like you. The point is that using a social platform as a log-in/subscribe option for your website means you can target users on that platform later.

Considering all of what was just described started from a simple signup, its easy to make the case about social logins and the importance of gathering subscribers in the first place.


Concerns: With Opportunity Comes Risk

While the sign-in feature on a website is extremely beneficial, website owners have to be careful about limiting the option of sign-in to one social platform or another and excluding key demographics. For example, while young consumers prefer FB as their primary login network, only 35% of consumers between 35 and 50 are using these logins according to Social Media Examiner.

Social logins are great for business and yes it makes the user’s life easier too, but there are also privacy concerns associated with social logins. According to Hacker News the Chinese Government hacked Facebook Connect for users within China, redirecting anyone from any site using the Facebook login to two small unrelated websites. Facebook commented on the situation saying it was beyond their control and under investigation.

Similarly, Chinese doctoral student Jing Wang found a flaw in OpenID (including Facebook, Google and Amazon among others) that allows hackers to trick users into signing into a malicious website with their social media profiles. These types of situations expose your personal data, contacts, and information to hackers. Business Insider reminds users to review which sites they have allowed their personal data to be shared with via Facebook Connect.

While there are concerns for consumer privacy, the benefits for businesses and marketers are enormous, plus users seems to really like it too.


Closing the Case

Evaluate the potential benefits and risks of using OpenID profiles login vs the good old email-password sign up system. Social media profiles allow for easy and familiar sign-­ins, particularly for the younger generation, while offering marketers a vast body of useful information about their audience and connections.

On the other hand, people in the 35+ age range may be less willing to sign up to your service using a social media profile. The best solution for website owners is to be inclusive and give their site users different options so the user can make the choice on how to sign in. Giving multiple options for signin/signup protects the website owner and leaves the choice about whether or not to risk a potential privacy breach up to the user. At the same time, site owners have the onus of staying on top of major industry news, hacker announcements and user preference trends.