The most successful implementations follow these seven best practices:
7. Analyze to optimize
Best practice #1: Put social network brands to work on your home page
One caveat to putting these powerful brands to work is ensuring the entire process still feels like it is part of your site. Be sure that the authentication window for each provider is compact, centered, and made to feel part of the site to make the process appear seamless. Note how the Twitter authentication window below appears as a natural part of the process:
Insider tip: Users are drawn to the social network icons, so you can maximize participation by making the social network icons as prominent, if not more prominent, than the link to traditional registration options.
Best practice #2: Offer multiple identity options
A key goal of every site should be to maximize the number of people who are able to register using an existing identity. The best way to do this is to offer people their choice of identities to use on your site, and at least three choices at a minimum. Identity providers include social networks, webmail platforms and other OpenID issuers such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, and LinkedIn.
The chart below illustrates the average mix of connections by provider in the month of May 2010. Across millions of connections on client sites, we find that Facebook is the identity of choice for approximately 46% of visitors. That means if you don’t offer your visitors other options, you may be leaving more than half of them out and losing the opportunity to strengthen the relationship.
Insider Tip: Consider using a vendor that aggregates all of the social network connections to make it easier to implement and manage multiple identity options
Best Practice #3: Provide a reason to register – and use an existing identity
Fox News does a terrific job of explaining to new visitors why they should register: it’s required to comment. They even demonstrate how they will personalize the experience for visitors who sign in. Fox takes it a step further, explaining why it’s easier to use an existing identity – no need to create a new username and password. See in the example below how the large, brand icons draw the eye.
Insider tip: Consolidate the sign in and registration screens. Because the path for registering or signing in a user differs only after they authenticate using their existing identity, it is simpler and less intimidating to ask them only to sign in. Once a user authenticates with your site, you can take them through the desired flow.
Best practice #4. Apply available data to streamline the registration process
One of the benefits of registering people via existing identities, from social networks to webmail platforms, is the ability to collect and apply publicly available information to streamline the registration process. This is an enormous win for marketers, solving the age-old tradeoff between collecting the information needed to personalize the site experience and communicate with the user while keeping the registration process short and simple to reduce abandonment rates.
Apply available data to minimize or eliminate registration forms
If you do choose to create a form to ask for additional information, use available data to pre-populate as many fields as possible, such as first name, last name, and email address, to show the user that much of the work has already been done for them.
Keep additional fields minimal
If additional fields are necessary within the form, use as few as possible. Remember, you can always ask for more information later. If you still want more data from registered users, you can use progressive profiling, asking for additional information in subsequent visits in a way that doesn’t slow progress toward an objective on your site. ABC.com asks for additional registration information before accepting a comment. Other ideas include asking for information before the site plays a second or third video, or displays a second or third article.
One of the most common additional fields asked on forms is the agreement to a site’s Terms and Conditions. Facebook’s authentication process now enables websites to incorporate this step by including agreement as part of the authentication process in a single step, as in the ABC Family example below:
Special Note: Retailer Best Practice
While allowing people to authenticate with an existing identity, retailers should also require customers to create a site-specific password. This password is for additional security and is requested only at the time of checkout.
Insider tip: Email addresses are pre-validated by the identity provider, so you don’t need to confirm them. This capability enables sites to focus initial email communications on welcoming visitors and highlighting key features, rather than the email confirmation process.
Best practice #5. Link existing accounts with social network accounts
When a previously registered user chooses to subsequently sign in to a website with an existing identity, don’t create a duplicate record. Best practice is to link existing account information, history and preferences with their social network account or accounts.
When people register with a social identity or any other identity, they can sign in with that identity each time they return to the site, and don’t have to worry about remembering a site specific username and password. Linking your existing registered user accounts to their social network or other external account enables any user to simply click on the icon of choice to immediately connect – no username or password needed.
Insider tip: Ask people upfront to link their accounts to maintain account consistency and avoid duplicate accounts.
Best Practice #6. Give visual cues that a user has successfully completed the sign in or registration process
When the registration or sign in process is complete, give the user clear confirmation. Put a checkmark on the platform icon or gray it out, display the user’s existing profile picture, and most importantly greet them by name. Don’t leave them wondering if their registration was successful, and don’t waste the opportunity to begin building on the strong foundation you have established for the relationship. In the following examples, citybizlist.com displays the user’s photo and a welcome message containing the user’s name.
The social network identity chosen by the user is also clearly identified; ABC also displays a welcome message customized with user name, and identifies the identity chosen by the user.
Insider Tip: Place visual cues in a position where people would naturally look for confirmation, like the area where they clicked to sign in, or another intuitive location.
Best Practice #7: Analyze to optimize
Testing can help you determine which identity providers are the most important to display on your site. User preferences can vary significantly. For example, while Facebook is the choice of approximately 50% of visitors across all sites, 45% of people choose Twitter as their preferred identity on news sites.
Insider tip: Run an A/B test on which icons to display as well as the order in which you display them.
Make your site social with Gigya
Gigya is a software-as-a-service technology that unifies the most popular identity and social providers including Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and LinkedIn and brings the features and benefits to corporate websites. Gigya enables businesses to deepen customer relationships and tap existing friend networks, driving social registrations, word-of-mouth at scale, and social interaction for websites and applications. In addition, Gigya provides social analytics, best practices, consulting and support to optimize every implementation. Supporting more than 280 million users each month across more than 500,000 sites, Gigya’s technology is the choice of global leaders in publishing and commerce including CBS, Fox Sports, Intuit, The Coca-Cola Company, The Home Depot, and Turner Networks. Gigya is a leading company in the Social CRM market, which Gartner forecasts to reach $600 million this year.
We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about why our deep experience, results-based approach, and unparalleled technology have made Gigya the leading platform for making sites social. If you would like to find out more please give us a call at 650.353.7230 or visit our website at www.gigya.com.