Facebook's score increased 3 percentage points to 66, a number derived from 70,000 annual customer evaluations and used as inputs into an econometric model, the ACSI said. However, that score was not only the lowest of the social-network companies ACSI evaluated, but the lowest of the three categories - Internet news and information, social media, and portals - that the ACSI studied.
The report was completed before Google launched Google+, which left ForeSee's Larry Freed only able to speculate about the impact of Google's social network on Facebook.
"We don't know yet how Google+ will fare, but what we do know is that Google is one of the highest-scoring companies in the ACSI and Facebook is one of the lowest," Freed, who is president of ForeSee Results, which conducted the survey, said in a statement. "An existing dominance of market share like Facebook has is no longer a safety net for a company that is not providing a superior customer experience."
Wikipedia dominated the social media category, recording a score of 78, one better than last year. YouTube finished second at 74, also a point higher than 2010. The "others" category, which includes the multitude of social networks not explicitly surveyed, plunged 6.9 points to finish at 67. That left Facebook's ranking, followed by MySpace, which wasn't surveyed.
Overall, social media is one of the lowest-scoring industries measured by the ACSI, at a category ranking of 70 - only airlines, newspapers, and subscription television services score lower. In 2010, Facebook and MySpace finished at the bottom of the heap, as well.
Customers reported a higher overall satisfaction with the Internet portal and search engine category; ACSI reported a score of 80 for the category.
In the all-important race between Microsoft's Bing and Google, Google won, 83 to 82. Both showed gains - 80 to 83 for Google, and 77 to 82 for Bing. Behind the two search leaders came the "others" category, at 81, followed by Ask.com and Yahoo at 80 and 79, respectively. The smaller players, Ask.com, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and AltaVista, all trailed behind.
ACSI also surveyed the top mainstream news sites, which slipped a point to a score of 73. The top news site, in terms of satisfaction? FoxNews.com, which held steady at 82.
"FOXNews.com tops all news and information sites for a second straight year with an unchanged ACSI score of 82," ACSI wrote in a commentary. "While there may be several reasons for this strong performance, the relative homogeneity of its audience is a contributing factor. Not so for The Huffington Post, which has gone from serving a fairly tight, liberal-leaning audience to reaching a much broader user base. As a result, at least in part, the site debuts in ACSI with the lowest score in the category (69). As Huffington Post continues to grow following its acquisition by AOL, the challenge of ensuring user satisfaction becomes greater as well."
ABCNews.com finished second, but far behind Fox, at 77. Behind ABC came USAToday.com, at 76, and CNN.com, at 74, tied with MSNBC.com. Perhaps surprisingly, NYTimes.com came in last, at 73, just above the "Others" category, which ACSI attributed to its new paywall strategy.