Capturing More User Info in a Less Creepy Way

Disqus’ 1 billion uniques per month

Daniel Ha

Given today’s digital privacy minefield, publishers and advertisers must find ways to get information from their audiences without creeping them out. Many have turned to social login tools, like Facebook Connect and more recently Google+ Sign-In, that let users easily consent to port their social identities (and real-life profiles) to a publisher’s site. Online commenting platform Disqus would like some of that attention.

The San Francisco-based company, whose network reaches more than 1 billion unique visitors a month, is launching its own social sign-on tool called AudienceSync. Disqus CEO Daniel Ha said the tool will help publishers and their advertisers better connect with the 1.5 million people who create a Disqus profile each month. He described Disqus users as a “prime target for advertisers to reach” because accounts are specifically created to participate with and share content via comments. In other words, they’re engaged consumers.

“A lot of the interest we’ve had with AudienceSync so far is publishers wanting to create accounts so their audience becomes something very valuable in the eyes of advertisers,” Ha said, noting that roughly a half-dozen publishers such as The Daily Meal have participated in the tool’s prelaunch testing. Similar to Facebook’s Custom Audiences ad targeting, a publisher can use AudienceSync to collect users’ email addresses and match them up with brands’ existing customer email databases. Once that’s done, any AudienceSync user enrolled in a brand’s email newsletter who visits that site can be targeted with relevant display ads.

That said, Disqus’ social sign-in tool must compete with the size and clout of Facebook and Google. Social login management platform Janrain finds that Facebook is still the dominant option, but Janrain vp of marketing Bill Piwonka pointed out that the social network’s share is less than 50 percent and has ceded share “primarily to Google.” That trend began before Google announced Google+ Sign-In, which lets people register on sites like The Guardian and USA Today or apps like Fandango via their Google+ account. That step provides the publisher or developer as well as Google a wealth of information (and it’s arguably easier for consumers).

Since the information collected through social sign-in is all opt-in, publishers like The Guardian can use Google+ Sign-In to solicit users’ full names, email addresses, birth dates and gender. And Google can gather info on what those users are doing on The Guardian’s site to layer into the interest profiles it compiles for ad targeting—all with minimal creep factor.

Golf brand Callaway has shifted its focus toward taking more advantage of opt-in marketing via social login. The company recently launched a sweepstakes campaign using LinkedIn’s social sign-in to get people to organize golf outings with their LinkedIn connections, and was able to receive user details like names, current job position, email address, education and who they’re connected to on LinkedIn.

“The biggest change for us in terms of messaging has been to look at how can we narrowcast the Callaway message and really allow the consumer to opt in to the types of messages they want to get from us,” said Harry Arnett, Callaway’s svp of marketing.

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