Facebook: Popularly Unpopular

Aug 16th, 2010 | By businessnews | Category: Business

Why does the most popular social network rank next to last in a customer satisfaction survey?

Arik Hesseldahl

Popularity doesn’t always equal affection. Take Facebook. Five hundred million people use it, but a survey conducted by ForeSee Results found that among 30 websites it tracks, Facebook ranked second from the bottom for customer satisfaction. It was also among the lowest 5 percent of all 223 companies ForeSee tracks.

Perhaps it’s a variation on the concept of “satisficing.” The word “satisfice,” coined in 1956 by the Carnegie Mellon economist and psychologist Herbert Simon, combines the words “satisfy” and “suffice,” and is meant to describe how consumers make choices following a path of least resistance. In the case of social media, you go where your friends are.

Facebook isn’t the only satisficing option out there. The most popular smartphone in North America is Research In Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry. According to research firm Gartner (IT), it still commands 41 percent of the smartphone market, vs. 22 percent for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone. Yet a survey by research firm ChangeWave Institutional Research found that only 30 percent of BlackBerry owners were satisfied with their device, vs. 55 percent two years ago.

Drops in satisfaction surveys can be reversed, and once-popular items can become popular again. After all, what technology product has been more universally used and loathed than Microsoft (MSFT) Windows? A May 2010 survey by ForeSee found that after a period of decline, more users are happier with Windows in 2010—76 percent—than in any previous survey period. If Microsoft can turn it around, anyone can.

Hesseldahl is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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