The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released their ratings for July 2012, and surprisingly revealed Google Plus to be the highest ranked social network in terms of customer satisfaction scoring an 78 on their 100-point scale (Facebook, incidentally scored a 61 which was one of the lowest scores of any brand in their study). In reading different analyses of these findings, it appears that the ACSI 100-point scale gives people the (false) impression that this number is a percentage, but it’s not.
ACSI measures the pulse of customers, not general public perception. The methodology for the ACSI survey is to qualify the respondent as a customer of a particular brand and then to ask specific questions to gauge their perception of the platform. For instance, if my mom was the only person visiting my site I would rank higher on the ACSI than the Huffington Post. That wouldn’t indicate that Huffington Post readers would enjoy the same content that my mom does, just that my customers (in this example my mom) like me more. She should. Also important to note is that there is some “proprietary” weighting of the metrics, so these ratings aren’t a percentage of anything. ACSI is an attempt to measure the customers of one brand with the customers of another with as close to an “apples to apples” comparison as they can do.
The ACSI measures a brand’s likelihood to retain market share. In their press release, they discuss the relative satisfaction that both Google and Bing enjoy (Google ranked 82, Bing 81) and how this is both a positive sign that Bing is doing the right things, but negative in that Google users aren’t open to an alternative. This is the best context to use the ACSI data, especially in the case of Google Plus.
The high satisfaction of Google Plus users doesn’t indicate that G Plus is a viable alternative to Facebook. In free-form responses, Google Plus users said they really like the mobile interface and the lack of advertising on Plus, but it’s unlikely that a better mobile product and fewer advertisements would change people’s perceptions of Facebook. Reuters inadvertently showed that negative feelings towards Facebook caused people to underestimate their Facebook usage when polled, so poor stock performance likely skews people’s opinions somewhat.
A representative slice of Google Plus audience is 70% male. The ACSI shows that Google Plus users are loyal to the product which is great, but as a representative slice of consumers this data skews male. A more telling critique of Google Plus’ growth prospects would be to weight the female responses greater than 50 percent and see what that looks like. It would probably give a good indication of their capability to grow to the size of Facebook, which like all other major networks except LinkedIn trend female.
Don’t expect a seismic shift in users because of the ACSI numbers, but Google may be more enthusiastic to call Google Plus a social network today. And a few more people may be open to Google Plus when they find out what a happy place it is.
You can find a table of all ACSI scores here.