Ubiquity does not equal quality, and that applies to social media sites as well as cable providers, according to a new survey of social media users by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Specifically, the ACSI found that Facebook, by all accounts the dominant social network, has one of the lowest customer satisfaction rankings both on the Web and among major companies generally. How low? We're talking down by the airlines... ouch!
Facebook scored 64 out of 100 on the ACSI point scale, which is like an "F" on a standard grading rubric. The sources of dissatisfaction listed by ACSI include privacy issues, frequent changes to user interfaces, and increasing commercialization. For comparison's sake, Google scored 80, YouTube scored 73 and Wikipedia scored 77, due to fewer big changes in the interface and a less intrusive approach to privacy.
ACSI founder Claes Fornell wrote: "Like Google, Wikipedia's user interface has remained very consistent over the years, and its nonprofit standing means that it has not been impacted by commercialization and marketing unlike many other social media sites."
Now, it may be tempting (for social media marketers, at least) to dismiss the concerns about commercialization out of hand. After all, it should be pretty clear by now that Facebook is not a charity, and users are naïve if they expect something for nothing. The business of America is business (the argument goes), all we're trying to do is sell ‘em something fer chrissakes, blah blah blah. However this is letting Facebook off easy.
First of all, there's nothing to indicate that ACSI respondents are against commercialization per se; Google is also a for-profit business but it scored way higher than Google. Most consumers are sophisticated enough to understand that a free service like Facebook, with no subscription fees, has to rely on other means of support like advertising. The problem is clearly with how Facebook has gone about it -- and (more specifically) how it has repeatedly failed to communicate important changes to users.
I can also see Mark Zuckerberg and company dismissing these results out of complacency: Facebook is the biggest social network and has the crucial advantage of momentum on its side. But the ACSI score is low enough that, in my humble op-ed, it points to real dissatisfaction among a large number of users about substantial issues -- setting the scene for a large-scale exodus to a competitor like Google+. Will it actually happen? I'm skeptical. But unlike the airlines -- which get away with crappy customer service because they operate something like a collusive monopoly or trust in air travel -- in the world of social media it's a lot easier for consumers to take their business elsewhere.