Why Ghost's magic links don't work well with social media sharing

Magic links are great, unless you have mobile users with in-app browsers...

A ghost holding a key

What's a magic link? It's an emailed link that lets a user click it and get logged in. No passwords to remember! Magic links are one stop email validation and login process, so if you're sending a newsletter, you know that your accounts have valid email addresses. Ghost only uses magic links for sign-in, out of the box.

What's wrong with magic links? Well, they work best when the user can be trusted to only visit the site with a single browser. When the user receives the magic link-containing email and clicks the link, their email client should open their default browser, and take them to your site, ideally to the page they were on when they requested the magic link.

So what's the problem? Well, in-app browsers are the problem. If you're posting your Ghost content on social media, it's probably because you want to attract new users. That's mostly OK on desktop, but on mobile, it's a bit of a mess, since you can't reliably assume that the user is seeing your social content in their default web browser. Here's a more typical process on phones (swap social media site at will - it's a common problem):

  • User sees your LinkedIn post that links your latest Ghost blog post and clicks it.
  • User visits your Ghost site with the in-app browser, and discovers that you have members-only features they want access to.
  • Your user subscribes to your site, triggering a magic link email.
  • The user receives your email and clicks the link in their mail client, triggering the link to open in their default browser. Now they're logged in on their default browser.

So where's the problem? The next time the user sees one of your LinkedIn posts and clicks the link, they're back on your site in the LinkedIn app, but they're not logged in, because the magic link never got opened in LinkedIn, so the in-app browser doesn't have the login cookie.

While tech-savvy users could theoretically paste in the magic link into their in-app browser, some in-app browsers don't even provide a URL bar (lookin' at you, FaceBook!), so there's no way to ever get the user authenticated by magic link with the in-app browser they're using when they see your content.

How can we make Ghost work better with social media posts? Social Sign-On for Ghost is the solution! Social Sign-On keeps the user in the in-app browser, so the user can get their in-app browser logged in, and continue visiting your site without interruption.

Tested combinations (more to come):
LinkedIn SSO with LinkedIn app ✔️ (tested on iOS - and it autocompletes!)
Amazon SSO with LinkedIn app ✔️ (on iOS)
Google SSO with LinkedIn app ❌ (on iOS)
Google SSO with FaceBook app ❌ (on iOS)
Google SSO with Instagram app ❌ (on iOS)
Amazon SSO with FaceBook app ✔️ (on iOS)
FaceBook SSO with FaceBook app ✔️ (on iOS, no password typing needed)
FaceBook SSO with Instagram app ✔️ (on iOS)

(Google SSO doesn't work with in-app browsers because Google specifically blocks them. Not much I can do about that.)

How can we provide the best experience for in-app browser users on Ghost websites?

  • Detect the in-app browser and only offer sign-in links that work in that browser
  • Redirect the user to the last page they visited before clicking to the sign-on/sign-up page, so that they can get right back to reading.

Final thought: If you're religiously posting your Ghost content to social media but aren't getting much traction, you might want to pretend to be a new user who is just encountering one of your posts for the first time. If you discover that you need help improving the flow, please get in touch!

Ready to try it now? Use the link below to sign in to this site, using your in-app browser!

Want to see a site doing it well? Check out The Straight! They use white labeled single sign-on to make logins work great from all their socials.

The Straight
Launched in 2023, the Straight is a subscription-based digital publication featuring in-depth coverage of the Australian racing, wagering and breeding industries.