Social Sign-On: What is it and How Does It Benefit Your Web Site?

Written by Brad PrescottJanuary 10, 2011

Social Sign On (“SSO”) enables website and mobile application users to authenticate using their existing social network credentials from providers such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. Most users have noticed this trend on sites like Answers.com or Fox News. Here are some of the benefits of social sign-on:

Establishes Identity

Whether a user is registering for your site or simply visiting, social sign-on lets site owners verify a user’s identity. In general, it means users “are who they say they are”. This can be invaluable for websites that offer comments, discussions and other interaction among users as these interactions tend to be more constructive. And since industry giants like Facebook and Google spend a great deal of time trying to limit fraudulent identities, your site benefits accordingly.

Increased Conversion Rates

Websites that provide visitors the option to sign in or register using their social network identity see increases in both conversion rates on their site as well as social referral traffic (assuming the site integrates things like sharing).

It’s Mobile

Because the APIs from major providers like Facebook and Twitter offer REST endpoints, social sign-on is available for mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad and Android. This means applications can offer the same social functionality through mobile devices as they can on conventional websites.

Business Impacts

For online retailers and content publishers, a recent report from Gigya shows that social sign-on and registered users bring significant benefits including:

  • Loyalty: the ability to engage users and build relationships was the benefit deemed important by the largest percentage of online executives (84%).
  • Targeting: 80% of executives cited applying rich profile information to target and customize the site experience.
  • Word of Mouth: 77% say social sign-on makes it easier for customers to share information and promote the organization to their social network.
  • Revenue: 75% see social sign-on impacting their organization’s bottom line.

Access to Social APIs

The great benefit to both users and site owners is that social sign-on provides the application a “session token” allowing it to make API calls to providers like Facebook and Microsoft Messenger Connect on the user’s behalf. And if you use a service like Gigya, users can actually connect with multiple providers simultaneously. For example, if your application allows users to check out shopping carts of peer recommended products, your users can checkout recommendations from friends across multiple networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Account Linking

Because so many users like the flexibility of using multiple identities, another benefit of social sign-on is that you can effectively create a “backup” system for authentication. Depending on the back-end architecture, applications can easily link multiple social network identities to an existing site account. This means users can sign-in using their existing site credentials or with any of the multiple network identities.

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