An important though optional feature for your website or mobile app is providing your users a method to authenticate using social networks and/or to authorize you to have access to their information or social features. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and others offer methods, often using an open protocol such as OAuth , for developers to implement user authorized access to their platform. There are a number of advantages for providing this, as well as a few things to consider.
The registration process to your site is made simpler for the user, which may make conversion to subscription more likely to happen. Because you have access to information the user does not have to go through a process of filling out forms to provide it to you – though some sites use that to pre-populate forms. A simpler process for registration means less of an opportunity for them to hit cancel and skip it. I believe it also adds a look of professionalism to your app or site and subtle implication that your company is well connected in the digital world.
More than just sharing
Most Social platforms that allow for OAuth access also provide an API access to their features. Being granted authorization to use an account can also allow you to incorporate this functionality into your offering. Examples may be allowing users to send Direct Messages on Twitter, or to invite people to Events on Facebook. It allows for functionality that is more than just posting status updates. Hootsuite is an example of a site where their purpose is adding value and a combined view of various social platforms the user has authorized access too.
Provide a way to authenticate users without Social
It’s necessary to provide a method where you authenticate the user, not just a delegated method of authentication. Not everyone trusts an application’s use of their social account. Currently most of the sites provide fairly open access when using OAuth – though the standard does allow for more refinement and this may change in the future. Having your own method gives your users options.
Use, don’t abuse
Be clear to the user what information you will be accessing and what you will do with it, as well as any actions you will take on their social network. You’ve been able to win over these subscribers, don’t risk losing them. Nothing will annoy your users more than if it becomes apparently that you are posting every interaction on your site to their social network without allowing them control over what can be done.
When you are discussing and reviewing feature set of your online site or app with your development team, remember to include providing your customers some integration with their Social platforms. Consider the possibilities of delegated login or an ability to integrate in some of their features.
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