By Michael Olson | Posted on October 09, 2012
When you register on a website via social login or share content out to friends, which social network or identity provider do you use? Do you trust one over the other or do you use them differently within context? Each quarter, we analyze social login and social sharing preferences across all of our customer websites that use Janrain Engage to answer these very questions. These trends are significant because social login preferences are a leading indicator of consumer trust in their online identity providers. If I use my Google account as a portable identity to login and participate on sites across the web, for example, that choice is a distinct sign of loyalty and brand affinity toward Google.
For the first time ever since Janrain began analyzing such data nearly three years ago, Facebook’s popularity as a chosen provider for social login eclipsed 50%. That said, a nearly equivalent percentage of people would rather use a different social identity, such as Google, Twitter or Yahoo!, to log in to sites across the web. When it comes to social login, people want choice.
Facebook’s share of social logins has increased steadily during the past three years. Facebook’s 6% growth compared to Q2 2012 primarily came at the expense of Google, whose share dropped from 30% in Q2 to 25% in Q3. And while Twitter’s share has not flourished at quite the rate we expected three years ago, Twitter checked in at 10% share of social logins in Q3, which is an all-time quarterly high for the network.
It is also interesting to note that preferences differ depending on location. For example, Mixi is the most common social login of choice in Japan, while Hyves contends with Facebook as the most popular social network in the Netherlands.
As with prior analyses, 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 attention.
Facebook leads across industry verticals including retail, consumer brands, media, entertainment and gaming, and music-related sites. Its popularity is especially pronounced on music sites and entertainment and gaming sites. On retail websites, we are witnessing an increasing preference to use PayPal to create an account and sign-in during the checkout process. PayPal’s share increased to nearly 10% on retail sites in Q3, up from 2% in Q4 2011.
The second most favored portable identity provider across each of these verticals is Google, but its popularity is most evident on retail sites, which could perhaps be a reflection of the trust that people place in Google as a secure provider of their online identity.
It is worth noting that, for the first time in the past five quarters, Yahoo!’s once declining share of social logins leveled out across the major verticals, and it actually picked up 3% share on music sites. Windows Live (Hotmail/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 saw a big jump in popularity as a social login provider in Q3, while Google experienced a small decline. Not surprisingly, these trends closely mimic desktop web preferences.
Social sharing is not just for sharing articles anymore. People are now able to share comments, purchases, reviews and other content from the web to their social networks. As a result, social networks have become a recommendation engine for web users. As we all suspect, Facebook and Twitter are far and away the most popular networks for sharing, but LinkedIn and Yahoo! maintain preference on niche sites that are catered to their audience (B2B sites for LinkedIn, as an example). During the past year, Twitter has rivaled Facebook, with nearly 40% of people preferring to share content they interact with across the web to their Twitter stream. It’s also worth noting that, since Janrain introduced the capability to support sharing via email to Gmail contacts in June 2012, we are already seeing adoption within that channel. 2% of all sharing activity on the Janrain platform occurred via Gmail in Q3, a trend that we expect will only increase over time given the continued popularity of email as a preferred channel for sharing.
As you optimize your on-site social media strategy, it is important to keep your audience in mind when choosing providers to offer for social login and social sharing. While you might assume one provider will be more popular than others, we’ve found that people prefer choice. If you haven’t offered social login and sharing yet, here are some reasons to do so:
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 enables 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.
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.
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