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Focus on Mobile Drives Social Media Satisfaction Higher, Survey Finds

It’s an interesting contradiction. Social media sites are wildly popular – even though using them often isn’t satisfying. The big names in social media have been working to improve the experience and it appears to be working.

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released Tuesday shows that social media has made gains in keeping customers happy. Last year, social media was one of the lowest-rated industries, with a score of 71 out of 100. Today it rates 74, an increase of 4 percent, according to the report. The results are based on surveys collected from 5,400 people in the second quarter of 2015, which rated the social media sites in eight categories, such as ease of using the site on different devices, freshness of content, privacy, ease of navigation, variety of services and information and speed and reliability of video clips.

David VanAmburg, ACSI’s managing director, said social media sites are “hitting their stride” by delivering “fresher content” and up-to-the-minute news updates. They’ve also done a good job of adapting to the mobile environment.

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“These sites have really stepped up the game as far as making apps that allow users to have that really good seamless experience on their smartphones and enjoy those sites in a very useful way,” VanAmburg told NBC News.

The ACSI survey found that users also seem to be more comfortable about their privacy on these sites and have become more accepting of the advertising that they are exposed to as part of the experience.

“Generally speaking, the tide is lifting all boats here. We’re seeing a wave of improvement across the board for these kinds of websites,” VanAmburg said.

Facebook, with a 12 percent jump in satisfaction, registered the biggest improvement, moving from the basement of the social media sector in 2014 to well above average this year. People are increasingly turning to social media in general and Facebook in particular for news, the report noted. In fact, Facebook now outranks the websites of some large news organizations for customer satisfaction.

Pinterest led the social satisfaction pack for the second year in a row, with an ACSI score of 78, up 3 percent from last year. Wikipedia was second at 77, followed by You Tube and Instagram at 76. Google+ moved up 6 percent to tie Facebook at 75. At the bottom of the list: Twitter (71), Tumblr (69) and LinkedIn (68).

Overall, social media was rated near the middle in the categories rated by the index. which ranges from the highest-rated -- TV and video players (86) and credit unions (85) -- down to the lowest rated -- subscription TV service and Internet Service Providers (63).

Google remains the top search engine, but…

Customer satisfaction with search engines and information sites declined from a year ago – down 5 percent to 76 out of 100 – reversing last year’s gain.

“We’re definitely seeing some issues with search,” VanAmburg said. “One of the big issues with search and information sites generally, is that they have not been as good at adapting to the mobile environment.”

Google remains the undisputed leader in search, with 64 percent of the market, but its ACSI satisfaction score dropped 6 percent to 78.

The ability to search on a smartphone with Google is just fine, the problem is that many of the sites it finds do not adapt well to mobile devices, VanAmburg explained.

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“Google is trying to do some things with its algorithms to get those searches in the mobile environment more relevant to that mobile environment and we think that should help push their score up in the future,” VanAmburg told NBC News.

After Google, it’s a race for second place between Yahoo! (75), MSN and AOL (74) and Bing (72). While Bing has gained market share, the ACSI report noted that it slipped 1 percent in user satisfaction.

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.