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Facebook Denies Claims Of User Dissatisfaction, Teen Disengagement
In May, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report asserting that while teens were on Facebook in large numbers they were losing enthusiasm. The report said that “94 percent of teen social media users say they have a Facebook profile, and 81 percent say that Facebook is the profile they use most often.”
However the report went on, using focus-group material, to say that many teens were burned out on the site:
For Facebook in particular, while some focus group participants enjoyed using it, far more associated it with constraints through an increasing adult presence, high-pressure or otherwise negative social interactions (“drama”), or feeling overwhelmed by others who share too much . . .
In contrast to the widespread negative feelings about interactions on Facebook, the focus group participants who used Instagram expressed particular excitement about this social media site.
Separately this week ForeSee Results published findings from its regular e-business survey of customer satisfaction (for the American Customer Satisfaction Index [ACSI]). That survey found low satisfaction with social media sites. The survey data showed a category average score of 68, which put social media sites “on par with airlines, and rating better than only subscription TV service and ISPs.” Facebook’s score was 62, near the bottom.
Social Media Satisfaction Scores
Source: ForSee Results/ACSI (2013)
Advertising was cited as the principal reason behind the low satisfaction scores. ForeSee Results found large numbers of users on social media sites simply ignore ads or find them annoying.
On the company’s Q2 earnings call yesterday Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was clearly responding to these and other reports critical of Facebook. Regarding teen disengagement, Zuckerberg said that it was essentially a myth:
There has been a lot of speculation reporting that fewer teens are using Facebook. But based on our data, that just isn’t true. It’s difficult to measure this perfectly, since some young people lied about their age. But based on the best data we have, we believe that we’re close to fully penetrated in the U.S. teen demographic for a while and the number of teens using Facebook on both a daily and monthly basis has been steady over the past year and half.
Teems also remain really highly engaged using Facebook. Now it’s also worth mentioning that these stats are for Facebook only. Instagram is growing quickly as well. If you combine the two services together, we believe our engagement and share of time spend are likely growing quickly throughout the world.
In terms of advertising on Facebook, Zuckerberg acknowledged that consumers were seeing more ads but pushed back against the notion of widespread dissatisfaction, as reported by ForeSee Results. Zuckerberg said there was no “meaningful drop in satisfaction” but that the company was nonetheless focusing more on ad quality:
One of the things I watch most closely is the quality of our ads and peoples’ sentiment around them. Right now ads on average make up about 5% or 1 in 20 stories in News Feed. We haven’t measured a meaningful drop in satisfaction when we ask people about their experience with Facebook. We’re comparing that to the result we get when we ask the same question to people using a version of Facebook with no feed ads at all.
With that said, in recent studies people have told us that they noticed the ads more, so we’re going to invest more in improving the quality.
How can we reconcile these reports with what Zuckerberg said on the earnings call? It’s quite possible that from Facebook’s vantage point usage is stable and there haven’t been any “meaningful” declines or defections. But the survey and focus-group data can’t be discounted entirely either.
As long as the “party” (critical mass of my network) is on Facebook usage should be stable. But Facebook remains vulnerable to disengagement, especially among younger teens (and tweens), who according to persistent anecdotal reports seem to have little or no interest in the site.