Expert Interviews

5 Questions on Social Media With Larry Drebes

We are pleased to feature Larry Drebes, CEO of Janrain, in today’s Business 2 Community Expert Interview Series. As businesses strive to employ social media, Janrain assists them with by providing social logins for over 350,000 sites.

5 Questions on Social Media With Larry Drebes

1.     How did you get your start in the industry? 

I worked as a software programmer for some large companies in the early 90’s and then founded a business with a few partners. Out of that venture came RocketMail, one of the first Internet based email products. Through a later acquisition it became the YahooMail solution.

Fast forward a few years and the emergence of an open standard called OpenID, designed to eliminate the need for websites to maintain site-specific authentication systems and for consumers to consolidate their digital identities.

I started working with a few developers on building out libraries for this protocol and ended up founding Janrain. Initially we built a consumer-facing solution, but as large providers like Facebook, Google and Yahoo got involved, we switched gears to providing a B2B solution for brands to improve user acquisition and engagement by leveraging social.

2.     What is the biggest challenge facing your industry?  

Managing user data – from both the perspective of the consumer and business.

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For consumers, as more of our daily lives,both personally and professionally is lived online, it is simply impossible to scale creating a new user name and password for each website that you want to interact with in a meaningful way. The rise of social networks and email systems have provided the convenient solution of giving consumers a handful of accounts that they use each day for different reasons. When websites enable a consumer to enter the site using existing credentials (i.e their Facebook or Google Mail user name), it saves the consumer considerable hassle the first time, and on all subsequent visits to the site.

On the flip side, for businesses, there are large amounts of data available on consumers, from different sources, in different formats and for different purposes. The challenge becomes how do you collect, store and manage this data in a way that is actually actionable.  Add increased competition and the consumer’s growing expectation for personalized, engaging experiences, and the pressure on businesses to understand their consumers and provide relevant offers as quickly as possible, and you can see how this is a very real issue.

3.     What do you think is the future of social media? 

In the last few years, most companies have realized that social media is more than just the latest fad in communicating to the under-30 demographic, and is instead a generator of real value and revenue for theirbusinesses.

Social login and social sharing are the future of the industry. With one click, the more than one billion people using social networks today can enter your website or online store with no new registration, no need for a new password, and no hassle.

Not only do you potentially gain many more customers, but research by Forrester and Nielsen shows that each customer gained via social login is far more valuable than traditionally-registered users. Indeed, social login boosts conversion rates up to 50 percent, and, though the data comes from Facebook itself, it appears that these users tend to spend more time on a website and purchase more than non-social login users. But even more important, social login gives retailers and marketers access to very rich demographic and psychographic data from visitors’ social accounts that they can’t get anywhere else, including the user’s location, interests, hobbies, purchasing habits, and cultural tastes — as well as those of everyone in his or her social network.

Leveraging this data successfully is what I believe is the most important trend for the future of social media.

4.     What is your advice to small businesses out there that are trying to keep up with the rapidly changing technology and Internet landscape? 

I think the key, regardless of company size, is to outsource technology components as appropriate to free up internal resources to focus on your core business. Over the past 15 years, the Internet, and many other types of technology have gone this route. For example, today there are established email marketing systems, commenting platforms, content management systems, ecommerce platforms, content deliver networks, etc. By working with trusted vendors who specialize in niche core technologies, businesses are able to keep up with the latest and greatest technology, and often at a cheaper cost than if they tried to do it themselves. Speed to deployment is usually significantly faster as well.

This is the model we use for our own business, as well as the value we offer our customers. This is a trend that I seen continuing and expanding in the future.

5.     Where can we find you on the web/on Twitter/Facebook/etc.? 


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