Why is Google+ is the #1 social network in “customer satisfaction”?
The American Customer Satisfaction Index released its 2017 e-business report yesterday, and Google+ comes out on top.
Here are the social networks ranked in order with their ACSI scores:
1. Google+ (81)
2. Pinterest (78)
3. Wikipedia (77)
4. Instagram (75)
5. YouTube (74)
6. Facebook (68)
7. Linkedin (65)
They measure this every year. The biggest gainers year-over-year are Twitter (jumped 8 points) and Google+ (7 points higher than last year). YouTube satisfaction dropped (by 4 points).
That Google+ beats Facebook and Twitter is old news. Google+ has always bested them. Two years ago, I posted on the annual report. Back then, Google+ was edged out only by Pinterest, Wikipedia, YouTube and Instagram. Since then, G+ has risen to the top of everybody.
I’m a journalist, so let me emphasize the negative.
This is really nothing to celebrate, even for Google+ fans. The reality is that none of the social sites ranked in this index has gotten better, except for Instagram (“Stories” improved it) and possibly Twitter (their anti-harassment policies are marginally better.)
The truth is that Google+ isn’t as great as when it ranked lower. Google turned it from the Mother of All Social sites that could do anything into a kind of visual Reddit, de-emphasizing Circles and getting rid of the awesome Shared Circles feature. They spun out Hangouts. They got rid of Google+’s good photo editing tools and replace that with Google Photos’ bad editing tools. They decoupled Google+ from Gmail. And over the past 3 or 4 years, spammers and scammers and others came pouring in to degrade the quality of conversation.
Google+ is by far the best (and most satisfying) social network. But I suspect it’s not because users like it more. It’s because they like the other social networks less.
For example, I suspect Wikipedia is losing ground not because of the quality of Wikipedia, but because people increasingly dislike being confronted with facts that challenge their existing beliefs. Wikipedia doesn’t belong on a list of social networks (Reddit should replace it). But since it’s here, it should be ranked highest.
In other words, what the top-two sites (Google+ and Pinterest) have in common is that they both prioritize the individual passions and interests people have – they both enable users to self-select into communities where people broadly agree with each other – unlike networks where people who disagree are encouraged to seek out and clash with each other.
In a better social world, debating contentious issues in a “public square” setting should satisfy. But it doesn’t, largely because of weaponized news, propaganda, fake news and the prevailing political culture of partisanship, ideology and tribalism above reason and fact.
The social network universe is in sad state right now. The two social networks that dominate with active user counts, Facebook and Facebook’s Instagram, also rank highest in their abilities to make users miserable, according to science.
Instagram has ignited a global arms race of success theater, where people are completely re-arranging their lives in order to photograph and share “instagrammable moments.” That competition has prioritized performance over experience, and it makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
The media continues to obsess over and champion Twitter, artificially inflating its value or importance.
Trolls, bots, paid-propagandists, morons and haters wreck Twitter replies. The world of YouTube comments is still a vapid cesspool.
Popularity contest sites like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube shower the few with fame, influence and money, while the majority of users languish in obscurity.
Secret algorithms quietly censor discourse beyond the understanding of users, and companies skew our streams for profit. (There’s no money in giving users all the control. That’s why Google killed Google Reader.)
And the top two, Google+ and Pinterest, remain gender-imbalanced.
So, yes, Google+ is the best (and most satisfying) social network. It has been since the beginning.
But, no, it’s not because Google+ has gotten better. It’s because some of the other social networks have remained bad or gotten worse. And the larger world of conversation in our culture has become toxic.
The good news is that sites like Google+ still enable us to create our own communities where we can cultivate the kind of social interaction we need. And that’s pretty satisfying.