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How to Build a Mobile Social Experience – Social Media Best Practices Series

By Jamie Beckland | Posted on July 25, 2011

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This post is part of our social media best practices series, which looks at how to leverage Janrain’s solutions to drive your marketing metrics. See the entire Social Media Best Practices Series here.

The explosion of mobile web usage has thrown marketers for a loop. Forrester recently reported that more than 20% of US website visitors use the mobile internet at least monthly – and it is more than double that in China and Japan.

And when mobile users connect to the web, they are looking for social experiences. In just one example, people who use Facebook on mobile devices do twice the amount of activity on Facebook as their non-mobile counterparts.

Clearly there is a strong need to integrate social media into your mobile experiences. Janrain easily adds a social layer to your mobile strategy, and integrates with mobile browsers and mobile applications.

Mobile Browser Experiences

The vast majority of websites are not optimized for mobile viewing. So, if you’re planning on improving your website for mobile users, it’s first important to consider the primary task paths and navigational elements that make sense for your users. You may not need to replicate the same depth of options that your full navigation offers.

But this is where a social login can dramatically improve the user experience. If your user has identified themselves, you can offer customized information to them sooner in the site experience. Financial services companies can deliver personal account information, while newspapers can render the sports section first for some users, and world news for others.

To implement Janrain Engage for mobile browsers, simply (wait for it)…do nothing. That’s right – I said do nothing. Janrain Engage is already designed to detect browser specifications and render correctly in mobile sizes. Layout, fonts, and image sizes will render correctly with our out of the box widgets.

If you are building a custom UI for your login experience, you will want to build in a mobile-optimized login flow. Button sizes, number of selections, and visitor return experiences should all be designed for touch interfaces, with larger buttons taking up the majority of the screen.

Social Login on Mobile Apps

Integrating social login into mobile apps drives engagement and repeat app launches. Inviting friends, completing purchases, or syncing profiles from the web are all common use cases. Defining the use cases for your app is a critical first step.

Janrain offers two modes of mobile authentication: client-side and server-side. The server-side integration makes a call from the user’s mobile device to your server, where you host Janrain Engage. If you set up the login this way, your analytics from the mobile app can be tracked from the same unified interface as your browser-based Engage deployments.

If you are already tracking app usage and metrics through an app analytics provider, you may consider a client-side integration, where the mobile device calls directly to the social network, without going through your server first. Depending on your server response time, this may also be a slightly speedier implementation.

The Janrain Engage iOs and Android SDKs are available to integrate easily and quickly into the app development process. Form factors for different devices are rendered automatically, and in either case, the full development effort is only several lines of code.

Registrations can expire or persist within the application, depending on your preferences. For most applications, a persistent login will reduce the friction for social sharing, inviting friends, or accessing social graph information to personalize the content for users. Consider whether there are sensitive events, like a purchase transaction, that should require an additional level of authentication.

An interesting example is Project Noah which uses Janrain Engage to log in to their mobile app. This allows users to tag pictures of plants, animals and insects found in nature, then automatically geo-tag and share those discoveries to their social networks.

project noah

Janrain’s social login and sharing solutions for mobile experiences are designed to work seamlessly with your other digital presences, or as standalone experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about creating mobile social experiences, see the full mobile documentation here.

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About the author

Jamie Beckland

Jamie Beckland

VP of Product

Jamie has been delivering custom web solutions for more than 10 years, and built his first social media community in 2004. Prior to Janrain, Jamie led the emerging media practice at White Horse, and has worked as a marketer and technologist with clients including Coca-Cola, Financial Times, Samsung, Wells Fargo, L’Occitane, The Brooking Institution, and many others. He frequently speaks about technology trends and writes for Mashable, Social Media Examiner, iMediaConnection, AdAge, and other publications.

View all posts by Jamie Beckland