Social sign-in is a wonderful technology that allows users to connect to a site using their social network credentials. It completely avoids the tedious process of having to re-enter your email address, choose a username, click on a confirmation link… and it also means users are far more likely to make constructive comments, because they’re no longer anonymous.
Obviously, this isn’t suitable for all situations and websites, and you should still provide an alternative method for those who simply don’t have a social profile. In general though, I think it can be safely said that letting people register or log in to your site with one click is a good thing.
So how does one go about adding social login to their WordPress blog? Simple, Janrain is here to help with a basic free plan, which enables you to have up to 2,500 users – far more than many of us will need I suspect. When the time comes to scale, you can easily upgrade to a paid plan.
What Do I Get?
Firstly, the login component is the most important. You’ll get a simple widget that can either be embedded on the page itself, or can pop-up in a modal box when a user clicks a link.
In the comments area of your site, you’ll also get a share link. When users click on that, they can share their comment.
One feature that separates Janrain from its competitors is the ability to post or share items to multiple networks at the same time – something that compulsive sharers will really appreciate.
I’ll warn you now this isn’t a one-click install. Due to the fact that your site will be accepting user email addresses and using complicated API calls, you need to set up an account with Janrain. As I mentioned, the free plan will limit your account to 2,500 social users, as well as up to 6 providers (a single provider being say, Facebook or Google – the social networks that users can use to log in).
Anyway, here’s how to get started:
- Head on over to the JanRain Engage site and create a new account. Here’s a direct link to the basic plan. You will need some kind of social profile yourself in order to create an account – yes, Janrain eats their own dog food, as it were. While the free account is limited to one site, you can technically create multiple accounts, but make sure you use a social network with a different email registered to it.
- Fill in the contact information and name your new application (the site you will be using it on would be a good choice, although it doesn’t really matter).
- Click Get Started, then choose Sign-In For Web from the Deployment menu.
Change to Plugins in the drop down menu that currently says widgets :
You can install the plugin at any time to your blog, so open another tab for your blog admin screen and search for the Janrain Engage plugin. In the meantime, click next to move to the choose providers screen. On this screen, you can choose up to 6 services you would like users to be able to log in with.
By default, there’ll be a few added for you. If you wish to add popular services such as Twitter or Facebook, you should be aware that’s there are additional setup steps required, in the form of creating a Facebook or Twitter App. It isn’t as scary as it sounds, and the instructions from Janrain will help guide you through the process. I’ll give you a quick demonstration here too.
Follow the instructions to allow developer access on your Facebook account if you haven’t already, and yes, in order to create a Facebook App, you certainly do need a Facebook account yourself.
Next we are told to click Set Up A New Application. You’ll find this in the top right on a button labelled Create New App (on Facebook, not the Janrain page).
Give your app a new name – the same name you used for Janrain would be the best. Next you’ll be taken to your app details page. Back on the Janrain setup screen, click next. You’ll be asked to enter the App ID and App Secret key that you can find at the top of your app detail page.
Copy those in one by one and click next.
There’s are similar steps to go through for Twitter or any of the providers with a little gear icon shown next them in the Janrain provider selection screen. For now let’s save.
The final step is to click Deployment -> Application Settings and add your domain name to the Domain Whitelist.
Great, we’re all done!
Note: The configuration screens may vary slightly from the time of writing, as Janrain was planning to enable greater customisation of the widgets.
Assuming you’ve downloaded and activated the WordPress plugin, you’ll see a new Janrain section on your sidebar. Click the setup link and enter your API key. You can get this from the Deployment -> Application Settings screen too which should still be open. It’s on the right hand side, where it says API Key (Secret). Copy and paste this into your wordpress admin screen, and a new screen of options will appear.
I suggest you check all the boxes on this screen, as well as select somewhere for the Login link for comments so that users trying to comment know they can use social credentials.
If it isn’t already, you’ll also need to make sure that Anyone Can Register is enabled on your WordPress general options screen. This step pretty much always catches me out, so double check. By default it isn’t enabled.
That’s it. You should start to see people engaging with your site a lot more now that they don’t have to type in their email every time. I can’t promise to be of any help with your individual problems, but please post in the comments or technical support community if you have any general problems with getting it to work, and I’ll try my best. Before you ask though, do please read the instructions steps once again to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Be sure to check out all our other WordPress tutorials too for more exciting customisations you can do with the almighty WordPress blogging platform.
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