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While social networks continue to grow in popularity, they provide one of the least satisfying online experiences, according to a new report.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index, which interviewed 5,129 people, gave social media websites Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Wikipedia a collective score of 68 out of 100, a 1.4% drop from last year. This makes them about as popular as airlines and cable companies, the report said.
Facebook and LinkedIn, once again, ranked the lowest, with a 62% satisfaction rating. Twitter (65%), Google+ (71%), YouTube (71%) and Pinterest (72%) ranked slightly higher, with Wikipedia nabbing the top spot. Two factors contributing to the social networks' low scores: privacy concerns and online advertising fatigue.
Privacy concerns remain an issue for some sites, particularly Facebook, according to the report. When asked to rate the website's commitment to protecting personal information, consumers gave Facebook scores of four or less on a 10-point scale. This is more than twice the rate of all other social media sites.
An increase in social media advertising is another pain point contributing to the social networks' low score, the report said. Sixty percent of social network visitors said they don't pay attention to ads, and 19% reported the ads deter from the experience. Twenty-seven percent report ads on Facebook interfere with their experience; 23% of LinkedIn and YouTube users said the same.
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"Social networks were often established with little or no advertising, setting the expectation with users that that's the way it would be," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of Foresee, which provided analytics for the report. "An important thing to remember is that satisfaction is a result of the experiences you have and the expectations you have. Social networks need to realize this and plan accordingly. Clearly, they need revenue, but they need to make the ads relevant and better manage consumer expectations to balance the experience."
Google social media websites Google+ and YouTube took a hit this year, according to the report. YouTube dropped 3 percentage points, which the report attributes to changes in the way it presents advertisements, while Google+ dropped 9 percentage points -- the most of all the social media sites surveyed.
One reason for the drop in Google+ is the difference between consumer expectations and business execution.
"Google+ continues to grow in its network size, but hasn't yet delivered on many of the expectations that social network users have, based on their experiences in other social networks," Freed said. "As Google+ continues to grow its network, they have the opportunity to become a serious competitor. The network is one of Facebook's strengths."
While Twitter's satisfaction rate increased 2 percentage points, it is still below the industry average. According to the report, consumers complained about poor searchability and the perception that there is too much noise to filter through.
"The noise factor can detract from immersive experiences like Facebook and Twitter. Neither one is curated or edited, so users have to filter through ads, banter and irrelevant posts to find useful or entertaining threads or connections," said Eric Feinberg, Foresee senior director of mobile, media and entertainment. "Wikipedia, as a managed site without advertising, doesn't have that problem."
Wikipedia and Pinterest -- the two highest-rated social networks -- earned their top spots for a few reasons, according to the report. Users said there was a "high amount of utility" in Wikipedia and that it was easy to use. Wikipedia also earned points for its mobile interface and lack of advertising, according to the report.
Pinterest's score jumped 4 percentage points this year. The report said customers are predisposed to having a positive experience with the site because they tend to pin things they like. The main point of Pinterest's dissatisfaction was intermittent usability issues.
"If you want to connect on a social network with friends and family, most users are still going to use Facebook. But as competitors get stronger, the risk of losing to those competitors increases as satisfaction declines," Freed said. "The biggest risk some of these companies face is realizing they don't always know what is best for their customers. They need to continuously measure the customer experience and do it the right way."