Mobile is getting more social. Let’s take a look how that’s playing out on Facebook, Twitter, and game app platforms.
Facebook, which took over the web with single sign-on, is now trying to conquer mobile. Facebook announced its single sign-on for mobile on Nov. 3, 2010. Single sign-on (SSO) allows users to sign on to third-party apps and services using their Facebook credentials. This reduces the amount of time required by a user to register on mobile devices; this results in higher conversion rates with an abundance of additional user information. “It takes you quickly from the stuff you have to do, to the stuff you want to do,” says Eric Tseng, VP of mobile at Facebook. “Single sign-on can be enabled with just a few lines of code,” he adds. (Here’s a Facebook resource for developers.)
Features include allowing the developer access to a list of a user’s friends, and providing users with an easy way to post on their wall to share with friends. In mobile, Facebook, owns and monitors a user’s friends list, similar to the web. Developers can access the list via Facebook once a user signs in via their app. With single sign-on, you can also ask for permission to send an email. This is a great way for marketers to get email access to their users connecting on mobile devices.
Unlike the deep native iOS Twitter integration recently announced (see below), Apple pulled plans for native Facebook integration late last year citing Facebook’s “onerous” terms. Specifically, Apple was planning to integrate Facebook in Ping, Apple’s new music-focused social networking service. Ping launched in September without Facebook making it more difficult to connect with friends and share music preferences. Only time will tell if Apple and Facebook will develop a deeper partnership.
Flixster is an example of a successful mobile app using Facebook SSO. Flixster’s social element encourages the sharing of reviews and movie “Wants to See” list with friends. This is a popular iOS app, and oddly enough, I only had one person on my Facebook friends’ list that used their servie, and that was my brother, Aaron Weber, the founder of Inveni, a site similar to Flixster.
Groupon was one of the first apps to integrate Facebook’s SSO. Groupon owes much of its tremendous growth to marketing through low-cost Facebook ads when the inventory was cheap, as Facebook was an ideal marketing vehicle to reach 18-to-34 year-old women with college degrees. Now Groupon is making it easy for users to take advantage of its offers through Facebook’s single sign-on and using the “Share This Deal” and “Post to Your Wall” function to capitalize further on social for continued hyper growth.
Companies such as Zynga and Popcap Games, which already have valuable applications for their users on the web version of Facebook, will find single sign-on to be very effective in mobile too. For example, in a recent post, “How Popcap Games Cracked the Code for Cross-Platform Synchronization with Bejeweled Blitz,” I walk through how PopCap Games leveraged SSO in Bejeweled Blitz to make it easy for game players to compete with friends wherever they were, using whatever device they choose. In fact, PopCap has done so well, it is rumored to be in the final stages of selling for $1 billion at the time I am writing this post.
Could Twitter be an alternative sign-on network to Facebook? Apple thinks so. At the recent WWDC event in San Francisco, Apple announced native Twitter integration via iOS 5; it’s due out later this fall. This will allow users to sign in to their Twitter account once in their device settings and then tweet with a single tap from Twitter-enabled apps, including Apple’s camera, photos, Safari, contacts, YouTube, and maps. Developers can easily take advantage of the single sign-on capability, letting users tweet directly from their apps too.
Game App Platforms
Game app developers are very innovative. Keep an eye on top game platform providers, even if you are in another category, to stay ahead of the curve.
Most experts in mobile social gaming are aware of DeNA’s pending U.S. launch of Mobage, Gree’s recent acquisition of OpenFeint, and RIM’s recent acquisition of Scoreloop. The major players are putting up significant cash for a lot of anonymous social connections that don’t seem that valuable to me. These emerging game platforms are likely to have more traction on Android than on iOS as Android allows for the creation of competing payment systems and marketplaces (i.e., app stores).
Even scrappy startups are getting into the mix. Since many of the mobile-only social networks have only a small fraction of your friends signed on, PlacePlay uses location to add new friends for local tournaments. Although this is a game example, it could apply to various other app models. When a new app is launched and doesn’t have millions of active users, connecting people through geography can drive up user engagement. PlacePlay also allows advertisers to target users in places relevant to their businesses and increases payouts to developers.
This is just the beginning of an ever-evolving mobile app industry. Keep an eye on Facebook’s Project Spartan, which will enable HTML5 social apps, especially games, to use Facebook Credits as a payment mechanism, cutting out Apple. A major strength of the App Store is its easy payment system. With Project Spartan, Facebook plans to have Credits built in to allow developers to sell apps and offer in-app purchases. TechCrunch reports that there are currently 80 outside developers working with Facebook on the platform, including Zynga and The Huffington Post.
Key Mobile Social Takeaways
Easily accessing a user’s list of friends in mobile is big. For digital marketers, the good news is that most of these new social options in mobile can be implemented in ways that are similar to their social web counterparts.
Also, pay extra attention to your user interface design such as those cited by Flixster, Groupon, and PopCap Games. Having a great user interface is key to developing valuable social experiences in mobile.
Let me know if you know of any other companies that are making mobile more social.