Americans are spending more and more time on social media, but are increasingly dissatisfied with the experience, a new survey shows. Although people are generally pleased with their overall online experience, social sites such as Twitter and Facebook saw a marked decrease in satisfaction year on year, according to the annual e-business report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index released on Tuesday.
Big drops for Facebook (68, down nine percent) and Twitter (65, down eight percent) dragged down the social media category, which scored a 73. That’s a drop of 1.4 percent from last year.
“People who use social media are particularly touchy about two elements of the experience that are never going to go away as issues,” ACSI’s managing director David VanAmburg told NBC News.
“They’re concerned about privacy and about doing the very thing that social media is all about – putting personal information out there and then being concerned with what people are doing with that information.”
Nearly two-thirds of American adults now use social media, reported the Pew Research Center - and nearly as many rely on social media as a source for news. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, its average user now spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger platforms, up from 40 minutes a day in 2014,
Results from the ASCI study, based on 5,125 consumer interviews conducted in the second quarter of 2016, also showed an uptick in satisfaction for e-businesses. Social media, search engines, information sites, and news/opinion websites improved for the third straight year, with an ACSI score of 75 on a 100-point scale.
But advertising continues to be a frustration.
“Consumers have not fully accepted advertising as a necessary cost for online services they have come to expect as free,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder in a statement. “There is little companies can do to change that perception beyond making sure that those advertisements are relevant and non-disruptive.”
Wikipedia was the top-rated site in the social media category, well above average at 78, followed closely by YouTube (77) and Google+ (76). Pinterest (76), Instagram (74) and Tumblr (67) all dropped three percent. LinkedIn (65) tied with Twitter for last place.
VanAmburg said it’s impossible for “global brands with massive user bases like Facebook and Twitter to make everyone happy,” especially when both are trying to do so much. YouTube and Wikipedia are different, he said, because they provide “a very specialized and focused experience.”
It’s interesting to note that customer satisfaction accessing social media sites is slightly higher on mobile apps (73) and mobile browsers (72) than on desktops or laptops (71). The survey also found that social media is slightly less able to keep content as fresh as users would like.
Search and Information Sites: Google It
Satisfaction with search engines and information sites increased slightly in the past year. Users seem pleased with the ease of navigation, variety of information and services they provide.
Once again, Google retains the top spot. The giant of search engines jumped eight percent to score 84 out of 100. That gives Google a nine-point lead over its closest competitors – Bing (up four percent) and MSN (up one percent) which both scored a 75.
Yahoo (74) is a close third, but satisfaction with Yahoo dropped one percent. About.com, Answers.com and AOL tie for the bottom spot with a score of 69, eight points below the industry average.
“Google is still king and unlikely to be going anywhere,” VanAmburg said. “It’s essentially a race between Google and everyone else. The smaller search engines and information sites just can’t compete with the simplicity and yet power of what Google can provide as a search engine and as a gateway into the wider Internet, whether you’re looking up a news item or just searching for a recipe.”
Again, users said the amount of advertising was the worst part of their experience on these search and information sites. As with social media, satisfaction with these sites is much higher on mobile devices: mobile apps (80), mobile browsers (77) and desktop/laptop (73).
News and Opinion Sites Are More Satisfying
Conservative candidates have spent much of the campaign season bashing the news media, but the ACSI survey found that satisfaction with news and opinion websites is up dramatically this year. The category jumped four percent to 76, its highest score ever.
“Nearly every website improves, regardless of political leaning, showing that the most interesting and unpredictable election in decades has been good for the news business,” the report noted.
One reason for the stronger satisfaction: better scores for fresh content (80), ease of navigation and variety of information (78) and overall site performance (77). The one exception was a growing dissatisfaction with advertising.
Most of the survey respondents said they access news sites from a traditional desktop or laptop.
Is the presidential campaign driving up satisfaction? VanAmburg told NBC News it’s too early to tell.
“People are fascinated by the news right now because of the political campaigns and they are increasingly satisfied, regardless of their own personal political bent, by the content and the opinion pieces that they’re reading on their favorite news sites,” he said.