Social vs. SSO: What's the Difference and How Do They Work?

by Alexandre Dedourges, DevSec

The modern era is unifying the way things work. Authentication methods are changing and adapting to new technological changes. This leads to a seamless way to use applications and websites. Why? It’s because people can quickly access their required websites or applications through ever-enhancing technologies. SSO and Social login systems are examples of such technologies that ease users’ way of logging in or verifying their identity.

People may think of these 2 methods to be the same. However, these are totally different systems having similarities in the concepts. The most important thing to understand here is that Social login is a part of SSO, and both these terms enable you to authenticate yourself seamlessly and securely.

To get a better idea of their differences, it’s crucial to get information on the basics of Social Login and SSO, including what they are and how they operate. Let’s read below to understand how these concepts are different from each other and how they are related.


What is a Social Login?

Social login is a part of the SSO or Single Sign-On Technology for the users. People use different methods to log in or create a new account/profile on third-party applications or websites. Social login differs from other login methods as it is based on social networking platforms.

In short, you can log in to third-party applications or websites online with your social media. Social login gathers your login credentials and information from social networking platforms and then provides authentication directly through that information.

This process was built to simplify and secure the login process. You can enjoy a seamless method of logging in as you no longer have to remember passwords anymore.

The social login method is helpful for consumers and businesses as it helps streamline the logging and registration process, and people find it convenient.


How Does Social Login Work?

Social login includes a seamless and smooth work process that simply works in the following ways:


Step 1: The user clicks on a site or app’s login/registration option and selects their required social network to sign up or in (through social login buttons). Alternatively, they use social media platform-directed links to login/register.

Step 2: The social network provider then gets an authentication request for the login and provides permission. In this case, users keep the task to validate the approval to access the site or app.

Step 3: Once approved, the user gains access to login/registration by the social network provider once their identity is confirmed.


Most Prevalent Social Login Platforms

There are different social login platforms through which users can register or login into a website/application. Some of the platforms that people use the most for logins include:



Facebook Login provides privacy and is easy to move forward with. This login platform is fast, convenient, and secure. You can log in to any website or application with this method. Apps and websites control the information requested from users.

However, Facebook still performs its review process with different required permissions. This means that the developers won’t be able to misuse your data. The best part with Facebook is that you can control and approve what type of information you can share with the developers. It’s a leading login category worldwide as more and more people use it.



Another secure authentication system users may go for is the Google Sign-in method. This option enables users to log in or register to a website or application using their Google/Gmail accounts. In this method, developers can get information about the public profile, friend list, age range, and ability to write and read to the user’s public feed. Developers can also ask for an email address and contact permission.



LinkedIn login enables signing in or signing up with a professional identity since LinkedIn is a professional social platform. Users don’t have control over providing permission. However, the good part is that LinkedIn has quite a strict process for approving information requests. Developers or third-party site owners need prior approvals for requesting information apart from location, profile data, and employment status.



People can also log in to different sites or applications using their Microsoft accounts. This simplifies the login process by using the same credentials used for users’ Microsoft accounts to log in to third-party apps or sites. However, big enterprises or corporations wanting to use this mode of social login need to register to their site or application with Azure AD.



With the Twitter sign-in method, users can use their Twitter ID directly to log in or register. Through this, developers will get permission to read tweets, and profile updates, access direct messages, and see who users follow. However, with Twitter, users don’t have as much granularity of controls as they get with Facebook. We can also notice how users already don’t have much to hide on Twitter, so it’s still a good idea to use Twitter login as there’s no harm, and it’s convenient.


Rise Of Popularity Of Social Login Among Consumers

Social login is also gaining immense popularity among consumers due to its simplified process. A 2020 report even showed that 70.69% of 18-25 years old individuals preferred social login methods. This increases the usage of this method in the eCommerce brands and retailers.

Through social login, consumers can log in to eCommerce or retail websites/applications directly with their social media accounts. Hence, they won’t have to create a new account specifically for the website.

Consumers can register and verify themselves with the same social media profiles with a simple click. This eliminates the process of filling up the long registration forms or clicking on “password recoveries’ in case the user forgets the same.


SSO – Companies & Employees 

SSO refers to Single Sign-On authentication. This password authentication method enables users to log in or register to multiple applications and websites using a single set of credentials. This process is beneficial for both individuals and companies. IT infrastructures benefit the most from this process as it has multiple business applications.

SSO is beneficial both for companies as a whole and employees individually. This process eases up everything and saves time. Let’s check out how companies and employees can use this process.


SSO For Employees

There are many ways SSO can be beneficial for employees. Some main reasons include:


Notice simplicity

From an employee’s perspective, SSO is a simple authentication method. Each time an employee uses the SSO service (whether for work or personal reasons), SSO either authenticates them directly or performs authentication steps to verify their identity.


No need to remember passwords

In a company, employees already have loads of work to do. Using different sets of passwords and trying to remember them can be a hassle. However, they don’t have to remember the passwords using different SSO methods like social login.


Saving Time

In addition, since the credentials can be added automatically, it will save an employee time to type the password, change the password (in case they forget), or keep different sets of credentials for various purposes. As a result, they can perform their tasks more productively without getting distracted.


SSO for Organizations

As much as employees benefit from SSO, so do organizations – even more than employees. The main ways how SSO can help organizations include:


Centralized Control

Companies can prepare a centralized control with the help of SSO authentication. They can give all their new employees access to the accounts without any hassle. In addition, organizations can even manage the controls and access of the accounts to different employees.


Enhanced Productivity

When organizations use SSO methods for authentication, it enhances their overall productivity. Since employees will easily log in or register to different sites, they will work productively and save time, leading to better business results.


Fewer Risks

If organizations use the SSO tactics, their employees won’t have to note down their passwords anymore. With that, there will be reduced risks of the passwords getting into the wrong hands. It’s because if it does, then they might misuse the accounts for organizations. However, this can be prevented with SSO.


How is SSO Different From Social Login?

People may use the terms SSO and Social login interchangeably. However, these terms aren’t precisely the same. SSO is a password authentication method that uses existing account information to log in to new websites/applications. Meanwhile, Social Login is only a part of SSO. SSO includes different ways, one of which is the Social login. In this method, people only use social networks to log in to third-party apps or websites.

Multiple factors differentiate both SSO and Social login. Let’s discuss the following:

** **

Functions: Social login refers to the single-click login method using existing accounts of social networks. On the other hand, SSO is an authentication method through which they can log in to any application or website with a single login credential.

**Authentication: **Social login includes multiple identity providers such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google, GitHub, etc. However, SSO has identity providers for any interconnected websites or applications.

**Usage: **Users don’t need to create new accounts and directly log in through their existing social media accounts with the Social login system. SSO, on the other hand, enables users to visit interconnected and independent apps or sites without re-authenticating frequently.

**UX: **Users don’t need to re-create new identities in Social login. Meanwhile, in SSO, users don’t need to reauthenticate interconnected and independent applications.


Summing It Up 

SSO may seem incredible due to the advantages it brings. However, Social login is no less. Both methods are beneficial on their own. While social login aims to provide access to login to different sites or apps using social networks, SSO provides access to login using credentials to interconnected yet independent networks.

With technological advancement, authentication methods are shifting to advanced technology too. You would notice WebAuthn, SSO, Social login, and whatnot. All these methods ensure that you get a seamless authentication experience without having to create new passwords. In no time, we will see a complete transition to passwordless login systems as more and more websites and applications start using them.

Hope this article helps you understand the concepts of SSO and social login and understand how these terms are different.

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