Social WiFi could be so much more

Social WiFi is one of those terms that has become a catch all term for anything related to WiFi and social media. Most often used by marketing folks, it is not really an accurate description of its true function. If you wanted to take its meaning literally, you could easily imagine all sorts of WiFi related activities. It could be a single WiFi network where lots of people are online together in the same place, sharing photos among other things. It could be, but right now it isn’t and it does have lots of potentially interesting use cases.

What is Social WiFi?

At a basic level, social WiFi is nothing more than WiFi data capture, pure and simple. It is a quick and easy way of allowing guests to log on to a WiFi hotspot using their social media accounts. Also sometimes known as Facebook WiFi, although any social media account can be used. Social WiFi is used in place of email registration, which can involve an additional step or two for the users. Ultimately, the user gets online and the venue gets to keep their data, with permissions of course. This value exchange between the venue and the customer is the function that a good WiFi Hotspot CRM application should carry out.

Benefits of Social WiFi

Social WiFi does have many benefits, when compared to a simple email registration for WiFi, or indeed no WiFi registration at all.
  1. Quick and Easy Access – Registering for a WiFi network using a social profile provides automatic verification, with no need for any follow up steps
  2. Better Data – Even at a basic level, social WiFi registration offers a high level of rich data on guests. All social formats are not equal, however you can expect verified email address, gender, age range which can be very useful for future targeting
  3. Social Profiles – Venues will get a link to the guests social profile
  4. Additional Data – The ability to request additional data that can create interesting use cases
  5. The Usual Stuff – In addition you get all the benefits that capturing email data on WiFi registration provides, like data logging for legal data retention purposes, terms and conditions provisos and more

What Social WiFi Should Not Be

There is an expectation from some parties that they would like their guest to check in on Facebook so that they can get free WiFi, or send out a tweet that they have arrived at the coffee house. Please do not force your customers to tell their friends that they are enjoying your product just so that they can get WiFi access. Providing a free WiFi service in return for personal data is one thing, forcing your customers to endorse your brand online among their valued network is quite another and should be avoided.

Social WiFi can be much more

Using Social WiFi as registration option can also provide much more data than is available at a basic level. Taking Facebook registration as an example, you could also request more info from the guests profile. . This can allow for really specific targeting, based on preferences. WiFi data capture and social WiFi by extension can be considered as similar to placing a cookie on a browser, expect in this case the you are placing a marker on the person. If you wanted to take data and social data to another level, then consider the following. A bar provides a free WiFi service for its customers where they can complete a one time registration using one of their favourite social profiles. As part of this registration the bar also requests the music interest data field from their profile. Now also consider if they have a programmatically generated playlist that can integrate with their WiFi application. With this scenario, it is very feasible for the bar to play the customers favourite music when they enter the bar. Now that is how you could really use social WiFi properly. Anything is possible, however you will need to have a WiFi partner that can deliver custom solutions as well as connected good quality WiFi equipment that can seamlessly allow users to get online while communicating with the WiFi app in the background.

What Data is Available

All major social platforms offer their differing levels of data to the provider using the social registration function. It is made available to developers through API’s that offer authentication and provide a payload of social data when authentication complete. All social platforms will offer a basic level of data, without any tinkering. Typically this basic data-set will include:
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Gender
  • Email
  • Profile Picture
Beyond that each platform will make available much more data, although in some cases you will need to be an approved supplier before you can access the additional data made available. Before users are authenticated they are asked by the social provider if they are happy to share this info with the WiFi provider. Participation rates are very high, but is important that you offer an alternative registration method, like email for example as an alternative.

What else is available?

Each platform makes much of a persons data available through their API. Each one is different, but Facebook being the best example offers some of the following fields:
  • – Provides access to all common Open Graph music actions published by any app the person has used. This includes songs they’ve listened to, and playlists they’ve created
  • user_birthday – Access the date and month of a person’s birthday. This may or may not include the person’s year of birth, dependent upon their privacy settings and the access token being used to query this field
  • user_location – Provides access to a person’s current location where they reside. This is set by the user on the Profile
  • user_relationships – Provides access to a person’s relationship status. Requires Facebook Login review before permission is granted
  • pages_manage_ctas – Provides the access to manage call to actions of the Pages that you manage

Facebook Login Review

Facebook, like many other social platforms hold so much data on their users, all of which is private. Facebook do allow you request most data fields form a person profile, with the users express permission of course. These fields will then be made available to the app developer, in this case WiFi Hotspot provider to store in their user profile. There are however many data fields that are more sensitive in nature and these are managed slightly differently. Examples of such fields are Religion, Relationship Data, Political Affiliations, User Work History and many more. If you want to request this data from your users, again with their express permission then you will need to prove to Facebook that you are using it with good intentions and to ensure a high quality Facebook experience across apps. This is understandable and if you want to request permissions of these extra data fields on your social WiFi Hotspot logon then you should clearly explain to your guests why you are doing it.


There is a very important caveat that needs to be considered and that is as the amount of data requested goes up, participation goes down. As each user will be presented with a permissions notification (see below), hosted by the social platform they will be able to see very clearly what data they are sharing with their WiFi provider. Understandably if you ask for private info, or request that you can post on a users behalf you are going to get resistance. Keep it simple, and only ask for what you need or what you think might add value for your customers. Anything beyond that is counterproductive and will annoy your guests. You also need to make sure that email registration is an option for WiFi Hotspot users.

Scratching the Surface with Social WiFi

So now we know what social WiFi is and more importantly what social WiFi could be. At a basic level it provides really amazing detail on users that you can use to retarget them in the future. Using email marketing you can tailor campaigns based on gender, location and just about anything you can think of. It is the future of using social login as a WiFi registration tool that is really interesting, and all of the potential use cases that can be achieved. Creating a link between the huge amount of data available online and the ability to create actions offline in a physical venue, triggered by a person simply using WiFi has huge potential and one that we look forward to exploring.

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