social logins

Logging in with Facebook and other Social Logins


Erik Olson

Erik the Founder & CEO at Array Digital. Companies come to us when their software holds them back from growing. We solve complex problems so they can compete at a higher level. Reach him at erik@thisisarray.com or on twitter at @erikpmp.


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The traditional way of logging into a website or a mobile app is to enter an email address and a password. It’s a perfectly acceptable way of logging in, but there are some drawbacks.

It can be tedious to type out this data, especially on a phone with a small screen and even smaller keyboard. It can also be frustrating for people to have to think up a password on the spot when they register, and even more frustrating when their favorite password doesn’t match the website or app’s password requirements (e.g.: passwords must be 10 characters long, containing one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, and a number).

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, have created login widgets that can be added to other websites and apps to make it easier for users to register and log in. Instead of typing out your email and password, you simply click a “Login with Facebook” button to quickly log in. This is possible when the website or app completely relies on a trusted third party, such as Facebook, to provide information about the user who wants to log in. Once Facebook has verified the user, they pass back data about the user (e.g. name, email address) to the website or app. Now the website or app knows that the user logging in is legitimate because it trusts that Facebook provides valid data.

Logging in through a social media platform is referred to as a Social Login. It’s become so popular that several other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, and LinkedIn, now offer this functionality.

Sounds great, right? Social logins definitely make it easier for users to register and log into your product. Any feature that makes an app easier to use removes friction from a user’s experience. Removing any friction at the point of registration is important for a product to have a high adoption rate, so the use of social logins is generally encouraged. However, there are a couple of factors to consider before you undertake the time and expense of adding social logins to your website or app.

People who don’t use social media

In the past 10 years, the number of people using social media has soared. Facebook alone, at the time of this writing, has over two billion registered users globally and adds a few million more every day. With around four billion people on Earth with Internet access, Facebook alone has captured 50% of the global market of Internet users.

In the United States, Facebook’s market share is even more dramatic. The U.S. has 287 million people on the Internet and 214 million are on Facebook. That means that 75% of the Internet population of the U.S. uses Facebook. Consider that for a moment – of all the people you know who are on the Internet, three out of four of them use Facebook!

Facebook is the largest social media company, by far, but there are others too. LinkedIn, Twitter, and many other social media platforms clamor for the attention of Internet users. In the U.S., a total of 81% of Internet users have a social media account. With Facebook claiming 75% of those users, that leaves all of the other social media platforms combined at just six percent. Because Facebook is such a dominant force in the social media marketplace, many online products use Facebook as their only social login.

Integration Costs

Every social login that you include in your website or app adds integration costs to your product. Having to integrate with a system like Facebook means that your product needs special add-ons and must follow a predefined workflow. This takes time and money to develop. Each social login will have a tangible cost to develop, test, and support for the long term. Add more than one and the cost increases at least linearly due to each new integration.

User Confusion

Some products add not one, but many social logins. The thought process is that if logging in with Facebook will accommodate 75% of the U.S. Internet population, then adding the ability to login by Twitter as well will increase that percentage a bit more, and adding another like LinkedIn will increase it even more. They are trying to accommodate the full 81% of U.S. Internet users who are on social media.

The problem with this approach is that after a user registers and later returns to the app to log in, they are faced with too many choices. Imagine if a user registers with the Twitter social login, then after some time comes back and is faced with options to log in with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It’s very likely they will have forgotten which of the many options they used to initially register, and they’ll have to guess which way is the right way for them to now log in. They may try to log in with LinkedIn, or Facebook, or by email/password. If they do, the login will fail and they won’t know why.

In the end, the user becomes confused. They know they have used the website or app before, but they can’t log in anymore. They will then try to log in again the exact same way, try to log in another way, register a new account, or they will finally say “forget it” and stop trying. When they stop trying, that is a negative impact on your business.

To account for this scenario, when a user registers multiple ways on the same website or app, the code can get more sophisticated and link these social logins together. What you don’t want is for the same person to have two or more accounts in your product. That leads to confusion because they will see one thing when they log in once, and see another thing the next time they log in. They won’t understand why and they’ll blame it on your product – rightfully! So the code needs to get smart and realize that this one person has multiple ways of logging in. That level of integration of multiple social logins, along with the ability to log in using email/password, can get expensive to develop and test.

Recommendation

Social logins are powerful and they should be used. But each additional social login you use adds time and cost to develop and test, and can lead to confusion for your users.

Unless there’s a strong business reason to add many social logins, you should only support logging in with Facebook, which accommodates 75% of U.S. Internet users, as well as by email/password, which covers the rest of the U.S. Internet population. This approach makes things simple for the user, and keeps your cost down.

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