Research Note: Integrate Social Networks with your Corporate Website with ‘Social Sign On’

Trend:  Corporate Websites and Social Networks Begin Integration
For over three years, it’s been argued that corporate websites were irrelevant since they were separate from consumers who were making decisions with each other on social networks.  Since then, we’ve discussed a vision of how corporate websites and social networks would integrate (roadmap: see these 8 stages of integration) and today, the tools and technologies are finally here to make that happen.

There are at least a few points of entry to integrate your corporate website: 1) Extending your corporate websites to social networks, 2) Allowing for customers voices through reviews and ratings, 3) Aggregating the discussion back on your own website.  Yet, despite the options, I’d like to discuss an underlying technology that is going to be core to the infrastructure of these programs going forward: Social Sign On.  While we’re risking ‘social washing’ all terms old into something new, let’s discuss why enabling social logins from third parties makes sense –and when it doesn’t.

Problem Identification: Corporate Websites Detached from Customers
There are a number of specific disruptions now that social networks have gained prominence with customers, the include:

  • Consumers and customers are already connected to each other using social technologies and making decisions about products and the brand is not involved. While the corporate website is still key for factual product information, it’s safe to assume that consumers will continue to lean on each other to make decisions –not listen to the bombardment of marketese.
  • Furthermore, the information consumers enter into the antiquated registration pages is likely inaccurate percentage-wise compared to the level of accuracy in self-updated profiles in Facebook and other social networks.
  • Managing these multiple login systems from all these social networks is cumbersome due to changing APIs, protocols.
  • Companies that simply put a “Follow me on Twitter” or “Like us on Facebook” without registration are doing themselves a disadvantage as they throw away hard earned traffic to a social network.
  • Lastly, don’t expect your consumers to be using a variety of social networks and email platforms –they are not evenly distributed, surprisingly, Yahoo has more login than Facebook logins.

“Social Sign On” Defined
Social Sign On enables website visitors to authenticate to your website using their existing credentials, such as Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, etc.  As a result, users don’t have to initially register to your website in order to verify their identity.   Social Sign On is a subset of Social CRM’s 5Ms, read the report to understand the greater strategy required.

[Social Sign On enables visitors to register to your website using their preferred credentials increasing the opportunity for contextual content, website engagement, and conversion]

Value Statement
Social Sign On offers a variety of benefits:

  • Increase conversion rate as users use existing Social Network logins (in a few clicks) rather than filling out long registration pages.
  • Opportunity for increased engagement as users can quickly identify which one of their friends has also visited that same website and interact with them.
  • More accurate contextual information as first time users information can be used to match relevant content, media, products, and even advertisements.
  • Reduced time in marketing/sales funnel as prospects quickly can be served up relevant products and even shopping carts of peer recommended products within seconds.

Downsides and Limitations

  • Industries in a regulated space may have significant policies and user privacy to overcome before ever implementing these systems.  Expect that lifestyle marketing efforts will be the first foothold for these industries –but not their core activity website.
  • While Social Sign On may be key for upper funnel activity, don’t expect it to fully replace credit card registrations as ecommerce may still require a registration page to collect credit cards, shipping addresses, and other detailed information.  This, could, overtime go away as we’re seeing Facebook snuggle up to payment systems like Paypal in recent quarters.
  • Reliance on a third party for registration creates additional failure, and in this case is known as ‘Authentication Rot‘ (This was added post-publication via Carmen Delessio)

Impacts: Future Trends

  • Potentially less data collected by brands, as users can control how much information is passed from the social network profile to the corporate website.
  • Expect this trend to continue and most major consumer lead corporate websites will have one form or another of Social Sign On within a few years –the trend that the ‘power shift to consumer’ continues.
  • Expect this term “Social Sign On” to fade into the background as we just use ‘logins’ for all of our interactions in the digital space.
  • Registration pages go away…much to the approval of consumers.
  • Single Sign On systems don’t go away they simple aggregate this new level of data.

Primary Vendors

Case Examples and Research

  • Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs “Docs.comuses Facebook connect as it’s “active directory” to allow members to login and connect with their real friends.  An interesting deployment as it assumes that we use office collaboration with our actual Facebook network.
  • Levi’s deployed Facebook’s “Like” button which increased conversion rate, and serves up recommended products from friends after a few clicks.
  • Citysearch using Janrain’s ‘Engage’ and has increased the amount of content on Facebook using the connection technology, read the PDF for details or more of Janrain’s case examples.
  • Gigya offers a best practices guide on increasing registrations using Social Sign On technology (PDF).
  • Gigya has conducted a survey with a third party to find out The value of Social Sign On (PDF) and has a myriad of graphs and user awareness demand data in this report.
  • Sears.com has integrated community right onto their homepage, and also offer a variety of ways to login and register, such as Facebook. After connecting with Facebook, users are prompted to enter their email, zip code, and create a login name. What’s interesting is that request for email is still required to complete Social Sign On, a hybrid model. (I added this on Sept 29,2010)

Develop a Roadmap for Social Integration Using the ‘8 Stages Framework’
My research indicates this is an undeniable trend, that corporate websites must integrate social networks to increase the relevancy and interaction of their websites.   Use the 8 stages of corporate website integration frameworks as your roadmap –don’t have a plan before jumping into this space.   Consumer facing companies should look at their customers socialgraphics to first identify which social networks they should allow for integration of, yet be inclusive by using a Social Sign On feature which allows for consumers to register using a variety of login options.