foresee results
Larry Freed

New Market Research: Social Media Sites as Annoying to U.S. Customers as Cable Providers, Airlines

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A new study by ForeSee Results and the American Customer Satisfaction Index finds that U.S. consumers regard social media sites Facebook and Myspace as lowly as they regard cable providers, airlines and the I.R.S.

The Annual E-Business Report for the A.C.S.I. study encompassed thirty online media brands in the categories of: portals and search engines, news and information sites and for the first time in July 2010, social media sites.

Social media companies Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia and YouTube were included for the first time this year, but achieved the worst “satisfaction” scores within the “e-business” group.

On a 0-100 point scale, Facebook scored just 64 points but Wikipedia scored 77. YouTube scored 73, and MySpace scored 63. By way of comparison, Netflix ranks at 87.

ForeSee Results expects to add Twitter next year but did not include Twitter in 2010 because so many people access the site through third-party applications (like TweetDeck) creating a varied user-experience said ForeSee Results chief executive Larry Freed.

Regarding Facebook’s low score, but dominance in the social media U.S. market, Freed notes: “Customer satisfaction is a combination of what you get and what you expect [from a website]. The business model of starting out free and ad-free, then turning your site into something else over time works somewhere in tech, but from the average consumer standpoint it doesn’t work.”

Privacy issues and promotional content — including everything from display ads to information posted by a user’s “friends” about Mafia Wars or Farmville — all frustrated Facebook customers.

Wikipedia, in contrast, has adhered to a non-profit business model where “it’s about the content more than anything else,” Freed says, and Wikipedia hasn’t added revenue generating features that make it “troubling for people to access and utilize an ever-changing site.”

The ForeSee Results study found that Wikipedia users are less frequent visitors compared to users of other social media sites. About one in five Wikipedia users visits daily compared to more than half of Facebook users.

According to July 2010 Hitwise data, Facebook is the top website in the U.S. with 9% of all website visits — Google has 7.4% — and 55% of all social media site visits.

Despite lower customer satisfaction numbers than researchers expected, people aren’t leaving Facebook and going to newer social media networks, Freed notes. Some are using it less frequently, he says, but they’re not jumping ship.

He compares Facebook’s position to eBay’s: “[EBay] has all these buyers and sellers, a large dominant group. If you want to sell, where are you going? Until consumers get a seriously viable alternative, they’re going nowhere.”

In total, the A.C.S.I. measures 223 companies online and off, with only ten of these scoring below a 65, including Facebook, Myspace, and airlines and cable providers. Among goverment agencies and websites ranked, only 10% score lower than 65 including the I.R.S.

The full report is available for free from ForeSee Results with registration.

UPDATE:

In response to this study, a Facebook representative writes: “We haven’t reviewed the survey methodology in detail, but clearly we have room to improve. Building a simple, useful service is the best way to earn and sustain the trust people put in us. That’s why we spend so much of our time and energy focused on improving the products we offer and introducing new ones.”

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