July 17, 2012, 11:12 AM

Facebook may be popular, but it isn’t liked

It has the lowest satisfaction score among e-businesses, ForeSee says.

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Facebook Inc. may have had 901 million active users at the end of the first quarter, 58% of whom log on daily, but that doesn’t mean those consumers like their experience on the social network.

The social network had the lowest score among the roughly 20 e-businesses measured in the 2012 American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report released today by market research firm ForeSee. While Facebook also had the lowest score in the index a year ago, its score sank to a record low for the e-business category—61 on the 100-point scale, down from 66 in 2011. That score places Facebook among the five lowest-scoring companies among the 230 businesses ForeSee measures throughout the year.

Google Inc.’s fledgling social network Google+, by contrast, scored 78 in its index debut. ForeSee considers a score of 80 or above excellent, scores in the 70s average and anything in the 60s or under below average.

Facebook’s poor showing is thanks in part to the social network’s revamp of its look and feel. The social network earlier this year began enabling consumers and businesses to replace their walls, which detailed their Likes and interests, with a feature it calls Timeline. The new feature is a virtual scrapbook that features a graphical and chronological timeline of events of a consumer’s life on the social network and other interests that she chooses to share, such as the bands whose concerts she has attended and the clothes she has bought.

The social network’s introduction of Timeline is just one in a steady stream of changes Facebook regularly makes, which frustrates consumers, the report says. “The public perception is that Facebook makes frequent and unnecessary changes to the user interface and forces them down people’s throats,” the report says.

Facebook also wasn’t helped by its need to drive revenue via advertising. Nearly one-fifth of consumers, 19%, said that Facebook’s ads interfere with their experience on the site. The social network offers a variety of ad formats that let marketers place ads that appear within a consumer’s news feed, the first page he sees when logging on to the site, the right-hand side of the screen, and on his log-out screen. Google+ doesn’t feature any advertising.

“Facebook and Google+ are competing on two critical fronts: customer experience and market penetration,” says Larry Freed, ForeSee’s president and CEO. “It’s worth asking how much customer satisfaction matters for Facebook given its unrivaled user base. But I expect Google to leverage its multiple properties and mobile capabilities to attract users at a rapid pace. If Facebook doesn’t feel the pressure to improve customer satisfaction now, that may soon change.”

Facebook’s satisfaction score also fell short of other social networks that ForeSee measured, including YouTube (73), Pinterest (69), Twitter (64) and LinkedIn (63). Overall, the average score for social media sites, which also included Wikipedia (78), was 69, down from 70 a year ago. The year-over-year comparison is distorted, however, because this is the first year ForeSee measured consumers’ satisfaction with Google+, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Consumers’ satisfaction with search engines also fell slightly—from an average score of 80 a year ago to 79 this year. Google lead the pack at 82, down a point from 83 last year, followed by Bing (81, down from 82), Ask.com (80, same as last year), MSN (78, same as last year), Yahoo (78, down from 79) and AOL (74, down from 75).

While Bing’s score is roughly in line with Google’s, it faces an uphill battle to garner market share, Freed says. “Bing is doing all the right things to be a player in search, but the problem is that Google users are generally satisfied and have little reason to go elsewhere,” he says.

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