Google+ could displace Facebook as the No. 1 social network, according to the ForeSee Results Annual E-Business Report for the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Although this year's index does not factor in consumer satisfaction from Google's social network, the report's author, ForeSee Results CEO Larry Freed, does provide insight into what Facebook lacks.
Freed said consumers struggle with Facebook's user interface and the constant changes. It's also more difficult for members to understand privacy controls. They continue to struggle with spam and ads, although advertisers and marketers like the options created to boost revenue.
Forcing social networks to meet consumer needs explains why Facebook members jumped to Google+, Google's new social network.
If Google+ can compete with Facebook, it will make it easier for another company to come in, such as Microsoft's Socl.com, according to Freed. "If there's too many that come out too fast, it will make it tough for Google+," he said. "Being the second social media site with a real chance of making it, you would like to see Google+ build momentum first before others get released."
Microsoft Research made a "we didn't mean to, honest" publish on the Web Socl.com, an internal design project from the Microsoft research team.
Overall, consumer satisfaction with social media Web sites, search engines and portals, and news and information sites rose to 75.4 on ACSI's 100-point scale, up from 2.6% a year ago.
ForeSee's Index attributes satisfaction for e-business mainly to the increase in satisfaction for portals and search engines, which rose nearly 4% this year to 80, and 27% since its first measure in 2005. Satisfaction with Google rose 4 points to 83; followed by Bing with 82, up 6%.
Freed believes Bing's reward program might entice consumers, too. It exchanges searches using the Bing toolbar for Amazon gift cards. Windows 7 devices and systems also come preloaded with a Bing toolbar. The site is set as the default Internet Explorer home page, which could also influence the increased number of visitors, according to the report.
Ask.com at 80 jumped nearly seven points, putting it in third place behind Google and Bing. Throughout Ask.com's 11-year history, it has transitioned from a question-and-answer site to a search engine. The explosive growth of mobile has also fueled usage of Q&A sites. Citing site stats, Ask.com's iPhone app has been downloaded about 700,000 times.
The online news category lost one point since last year, and remains on par with its level of customer satisfaction when first measured in 2002. News Web sites slipped one point this year with an aggregate score of 73. Foxnews.com took 82, while HuffingtonPost.com, at 69, is the lowest.
Social media Web sites remain low, yet stable, with a flat aggregate score of 70. Wikipedia took the top spot with 78, up 1.3%; followed by YouTube at 74, up 1.4%. Despite reaching 750 million users, Facebook remains the lowest-scoring social media site with 66 points, up 2 points.
Only 14 other sites in the 226 private sector of companies measured by the ACSI have scores tying or falling below. Those include airlines, cable companies, and a few electric utilities. MySpace didn't make the list of measured sites because ACSI could not gather enough responses to calculate a statistically reliable score.
After a dozen years of measuring customer satisfaction, Freed believes satisfied customers are more loyal, as well as likely to engage in positive word-of-mouth recommendations and buy in the future. The ACSI measures 47 industries each year, online and offline, across all economic sectors.