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The social log-in and sharing trends that may surprise you

The social log-in and sharing trends that may surprise you Michael Olson

The social media landscape is fragmented.  People use Facebook to interact with friends and family, Twitter to follow influencers and share opinions, LinkedIn for their professional network, and Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail to communicate directly with contacts. Combined, these networks boast over 1.5 billion accounts. 

Coupled with increasing reluctance from consumers to maintain distinct usernames and passwords on each frequently visited site, brands are rapidly seeking ways to leverage social network identities within their own properties. Through a secure process known as social login, these identities can be used to speed up registration on sites across the web.  But which identities do people prefer both for sign-in and content sharing?

Each quarter, we seek to answer these questions by analyzing social login and social sharing preferences for online users across the 365,000 websites using Janrain Engage.

When it comes to social login, people want choice. While Facebook is the most popular option at 45 percent, a majority would rather use a different social identity, such as Google, Yahoo, or Twitter.

The social login and sharing trends that may surprise you

Facebook's share of social logins has increased steadily over the past two years. While Google's share declined moderately during the first three quarters of 2011, don't assume that portends its decline in influence. Overall preference for Google has increased 2 percent since Q4 2011, and with Google+ rapidly scaling users and adoption, it will be interesting to see if it can eventually overtake Facebook again in terms of social login popularity.

As with prior reports, we have taken a sampling of sites in four industry verticals to measure trends in consumer login preferences. While the overall story arc is similar, there are disparate preferences within each vertical that merit consideration.

Facebook's popularity for social login on e-commerce websites has declined moderatelyfrom 49 percent to 43 percent during the past two quarters. Despite the decrease, it still enjoys significant popularity, which can be partially explained by the explosion of social commerce during the past year. Increasingly, retailers are offering social shopping experiences on their e-commerce sites that leverage a consumer's Facebook social graph. We believe that the opportunity to incorporate friends into the online shopping experience will continue to influence the proclivity to choose Facebook when registering on retail sites. Yahoo's share of social logins on retail sites has plummeted since 2009, mostly due to Google and Facebook.

On media websites, Yahoo and Google are running strong as the second and third most popular providers.  Despite a modest decline duringthe past several quarters, Yahoo continues to perform best in this vertical -- perhapsas a result of its realignment as a content network during the past several years. Twitter's share within this segment has yet to accelerate, but its potential for future growth makes it worth keeping an eye on.

It's also worth noting that Windows Live (Hotmail and MSN) -- historically a strong performer on entertainment and gaming sites -- has experienced a notable decline in share of social logins during the past year.

On mobile applications, Facebook and Google lead in popularity, followed by Twitter and Yahoo. Twitter's improvement in popularity on mobile devices could be a result of its OAuth integration with Apple iOS 5 for social login, which has further socialized mobile users to rely on Twitter as an authentication mechanism on portable devices.

More than ever, people are sharing comments, purchases, reviews, and other content from the web to their social networks. Facebook and Twitter are far and away the most popular sharing destinations, but Yahoo, LinkedIn, and MySpace maintain preference on niche sites that are catered to their audience (B2B sites for LinkedIn and music sites for MySpace). During the past two quarters, Twitter's popularity as a sharing destination has increased at a more prominent rate than other social networks.

Social login opens the door to collecting a rich amount of profile data from a user's social network account. Each social network provides a different set of profile data on its users, which can help speed registration or enable more data-driven marketing and ROI from personalization and improved segmentation. Here is a look at the profile data contained within a social profile that users can choose to share with your site:


What do these findings mean for your business?  As you work to add a social layer to your site to improve engagement and drive conversions, social login and sharing should be fully integrated.  We hope these findings provide a useful benchmark as you optimize your on-site social media strategy.

For marketers

Social login helps solve the challenge of how to collect more accurate data on your users without sacrificing registration conversion rates. Social login shortens the registration process to a single click and gives you instant access to rich demographic, psychographic, and social graph data on your users. This social profile data can be leveraged for content personalization or product recommendations and more tailored segmentation and targeting. Social sharing lets your users broadcast content and activities from your site to their social networks, increasing brand advocacy and creating an effective source of qualified referral traffic to your site.

For Developers and technologists

It can be a big headache to implement the plumbing to each social network API on your own. These networks use different protocols under the hood, such as OpenID, OAuth, hybrids, and proprietary technologies. As a result, coding social login on your own requires a significant investment of time, engineering expertise, and ongoing maintenance as the networks change their APIs, often without advanced notice. Your social login and sharing solution should allow you to easily connect to all the social networks by writing once to a single API. By cutting deployment times from weeks or months to a couple days, you can focus on your core competency while trusting that the social and user management tools on your site just work.

Michael Olson is product marketing manager of Janrain.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Michael Olson joined Janrain five years ago as a Product Marketing Manager, where he is responsible for launching products, go-to-market strategy, as well as positioning and messaging for Janrain's products. He tweets as @michaelolson10.

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