The social media arms race has been well-documented, with major players like Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Twitter and LinkedIn rapidly innovating in an effort to scale users and carve out a greater footprint on the web. But as the social networks grow in prominence and add features at accelerated rates, what are the impacts on your business? How much influence do these social networks and identity providers carry beyond the borders of their own ecosystems?
These are some of the questions we try to answer each quarter by analyzing preferred networks for social login and social sharing across the 350,000 websites worldwide that use Janrain Engage. Today, TechCrunch published an update of our quarterly social login and social sharing trend data.
For the first time since we began reporting these statistics in January 2010, Facebook has eclipsed Google as the most popular sign-in choice. During Q1 of 2011 (January 1st – March 31st), 35% of online users chose to sign-in to sites with a Facebook account compared to 27% in Q4 of 2010.
Despite Facebook’s popularity across a number of verticals, this data underscores the value of choice. Uniform preference among social media providers simply does not exist, given that 65% of internet users on the 350,000 sampled websites prefer to use an identity other than Facebook for social sign-in. Beyond the two largest players (Facebook and Google), there is evidence that supporting other major networks like Yahoo!, Twitter, Windows Live and LinkedIn can open your website to a larger audience.
Facebook’s ascent during the past quarter is at the expense of Google, while all additional social identity providers have remained fairly consistent. Despite its momentum as an emerging global phenomenon, we have not detected a significant rise in popularity for Twitter as a sign-in provider, but this is not an indictment of its influence as a social network. We’ll cover this in more detail in a bit.
Below is a quarter-by-quarter examination of social login preferences during the past 18 months:
As we have learned from past analyses, the data tells a different story upon further inspection by industry vertical:
Facebook is the most popular sign-in choice on news media sites for the second consecutive quarter, experiencing modest growth from its 32% share the prior period. Yahoo! continues to perform best in this vertical, commanding 28% share of all social logins.
Facebook has a much stronger lead on magazine publisher sites and continues to hover at around 50%, and Google and Yahoo swap places for second andthird place as compared with newspaper sites. Interestingly, Facebook’s share in this vertical two quarters ago was 57%.
Facebook has also picked up momentum in the retail space, with a quarterly growth rate of about 5% over the past three quarters. This moderate increase is mostly at the expense of Yahoo!, whereas Google’s share has held steady over the past four quarters. Comparing login preferences in retail year over year, we see 10% increase for Facebook, an 11% loss for Yahoo and little variance amongst the other providers. As new providers such as PayPal gain momentum, it will be interesting to see how this particular vertical changes in 2011.
On entertainment and gaming sites, Windows Live continues to draw a higher share of total logins than in other verticals. This could be due to its historical significance as a gaming hub and/or the presence of several European gaming companies in our sample (more on this later), but our quarterly data indicates a drop in popularity from 19% last quarter. At the expense of Windows Live, Google has recorded the most significant increase in popularity from 13% to 20% over the past quarter.
Among the more than 150 music sites sampled, which includes those of popular artists as well as internet radio sites, Facebook again leads, but preferences do not mirror the larger entertainment vertical. Twitter and Windows Live, for example, earn 13% share apiece while Yahoo! lags behind at 6%.
On mobile devices, Facebook and Google lead the pack by a considerable margin. Twitter’s share (11%) is greater on mobile devices than desktop platforms.
If your website or brand serves a global audience, it is crucial to observe the variance in sign-in preferences across different geographic markets. Windows Live, for example is twice as popular in Europe as a sign-in choice when compared with the U.S. Hyves commands as much as 60% share of all social logins on websites in the Netherlands, and regional portals such Web.de and GMX are popular in Germany. In Southeast Asia, Yahoo! is the preeminent social login choice, and Google performs well in Brazil due to the popularity of Orkut, a Google service.
As close followers of Janrain know, social login is only part of the equation. Our customers use Janrain Engage social sharing to make it easy for their users to share content to their social networks, which generates word of mouth marketing and builds brand awareness. On average, Janrain customers enjoy 13 new referral visits to their site from each post a user makes to a social network.
Facebook and Twitter are the leading social sharing destinations, and Twitter’s popularity here is noteworthy when contrasted with the aforementioned social login data. We’ve found that while most online users do not yet self-select Twitter as their primary online identity, the Twitter stream exerts great influence as a hub for content-sharing and a navigator to other sites across the web.
LinkedIn is also emerging as a more popular sharing destination, particularly on sites with a B2B focus. This trend does not surprise us given LinkedIn’s recent news feed enhancements. Yahoo!’s popularity remains consistent from prior quarters, and MySpace is still the go-to network for sharing on entertainment and music sites. Janrain Engage enables social sharing to multiple networks simultaneously.
So what does this data mean for your business? If you are just dipping your toes into the social sea and considering adopting social login and sharing, these findings may serve as a valuable benchmark for your industry and provide guidance on how to better serve your online audience.
For marketers, social sign-in eases registration friction, allowing you to accelerate user acquisition and collect richer demographic, psychographic and social graph data for personalization and monetization. Social sharing helps power word-of-mouth marketing, transform your users into brand advocates and uncover a valuable new source of referral traffic.
For technologists, implementing the plumbing on your own to support login for each social network requires significant development resources and technical expertise. Because each social network uses different protocols such as OpenID, OAuth, hybrids or proprietary technologies, writing individually to each network comes with substantial opportunity cost. Turnkey social tools that aggregate these complex protocols into one simple API free you to focus on your core competency while eliminating ongoing maintenance and variability that occurs when the social networks release new features or change their APIs.
You can view an archive of our previous quarterly reports below:
December 2010 – What are the Most Popular Networks for Social Login and Sharing on the Web?
August 2010 – Measuring the Popularity of Social media Platforms Across the Web
April 2010 – Data Reveals Trends Among Social Media Platforms
January 2010 – Data on Industry Trends in Social Media Platforms