We humans can have all sorts of addictions. Some researchers believe that addictions may be positive — such as to jogging or meditation — but of course many addictions are negative.
What about Facebook? There is no doubt that Facebook is addicting — according to Nielsen, users spend as much time on Facebook as they do Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia and eBay combined. But is this a positive addiction or a negative one? Is Facebook jogging, or is it heroin?
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) may give us a clue; the annual review of brand customer satisfaction put Facebook in the bottom five percent of private sector companies. The social network is “in the same range as the IRS tax e-filing system, airlines and cable companies.” ForeSee Results, which worked on the ACSI survey, reported that privacy concerns, frequent changes to the Web site, and commercialization and advertising adversely affect the consumer experience. (And Facebook is about to get further PR problems in the form of a new David Fincher/Aaron Sorkin movie, “The Social Network,” which has a plot that is said to “unabashedly attack” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.)
So if consumers are so unsatisfied with Facebook, why do they spend so much time with it? And does it matter to Facebook? The answer to the first question is that no alternatives that offer the same ease but with a compelling difference are available — yet. As for the second question, I believe low levels of satisfaction could point to serious potential problems for Facebook in the future because this means that consumers are open to alternatives. What might those alternatives be? Well, even with a recent facelift, MySpace doesn’t seem poised to recapture its lost luster — it scored even lower on the ACSI. Google is said to be readying a Facebook competitor, and upstart social networks are waiting in the wings. That Facebook’s future may be bright is likely but far from certain.
What do you think? Have years of toying with the interface and users’ privacy left Facebook users open to switching? Or is switching too difficult and will consumers remain on the platform, despite their apparent dissatisfaction, even if worthy competitors surface? Discuss . . .