The Power of Social Auth

I spend a lot of time here at Mixpanel speaking with app developers about their user experience. One question I get all the time is, "Do you think we should use Facebook auth"?

My answer is yes. Here is why.

Many PMs argue that social auth adds too many logos to their login page, and that it's generally a bad practice to entrust a third-party service with your users' data. These points are very well articulated by Aarron at Mailchimp. His conclusion is that social logins can damage brand consistency, and that the impact on login failure rate can be mitigated by careful attention to errors in your native sign-in process.

While Aarron raises valid points, I think that this discussion does not fully address all of the advantages of a social plug-in. Sure, he touches on an increase in sign-up conversion and a decrease in forgotten passwords. And Facebook happily points out that:

Today, more than 350 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices. Users logged into the Facebook for iOS or Facebook for Android app can use the "Login with Facebook" button and, in one-click through a permissions dialog, login to your app. This saves users from typing in an e-mail address and password for apps that require registered users. Since the launch of SSO, developers implementing it in their apps have enjoyed increased user registrations and access to the Graph API to build in-app social experiences.

As someone who spends all day everyday helping clients navigate their own data, the most interesting part of this text is the very last sentence - access to the Graph API Now, depending on what data you request permission to access in the log-in flow, you'll have a number of delicious datapoints available to you:

A common permissioning step might request access to: your public profile, friend list, email address, birthday, current city and likes.

That's a ton of incredibly useful data! Now, I know what you're thinking. If you request permission to so much data up-front, you might scare users off and risk losing them altogether. One way to avoid this is to request just basic info in the sign-up, and request additional data later in the app flow. For example, you might want to request this data when a user shares content, or checks in, or invites a friend.

Back to the data - you might be asking yourself what's so great about public profile info, birthday, likes etc? Well, if you're using Mixpanel, you can store all these juicy tidbits as properties, and use them to segment your audience, understand who is most engaged, and trigger emails or push notifications or surveys.

Imagine if you can trigger a survey to all users who mention "sports" in their bio, are male, and are between ages 20 - 25 asking them specifically if the sports content of your app is entertaining? Or maybe you've built an e-commerce app and want to target an offer for white shoes to women who are engaged?

Overall, I'm delighted when I work with clients who are intelligently leveraging the Graph API and storing this data in Mixpanel - they can dig deeply into their cohorts and engage their users on a whole different level.

So, TLDNR: when you're making the social auth tradeoff decision, make sure you value the worth of the data - and make sure you send this data to Mixpanel!