Consumers show social media fatigue – survey

15 Aug 2011

There are signs of maturity in the social media market, as some users in certain segments are showing “social media fatigue”, a survey by Gartner, Inc, suggests.

The survey reveals continued localisation of usage, whereby certain country-specific social characteristics dictate preferences. However, large global brands, such as Facebook, are making headway in countries where they have not historically been strong.

Gartner surveyed 6,295 people, aged 13-74, in 11 developed and developing markets in December 2010 and January 2011. Consumers were asked about their use of and opinions about social media sites, in order to examine usage trends and how enthusiastic users were about social media in general across a range of countries.

“Overall, our survey underlined respondents’ continued enthusiasm for social media,” said Charlotte Patrick, principal research analyst at Gartner.

“Teenagers and those in their twenties were significantly more likely to say that they had increased their usage, while at the other end of the ‘enthusiasm spectrum’, the age-related differences were much less marked, with fairly consistent percentages saying that they were using social media less.”

Social media site usage

Of the respondents, 24pc said they use their favourite social media site less than when they first created an account. These respondents tended to be in segments that have a more practical view of technology. But 37pc of respondents, particularly those in younger age groups and more tech-savvy segments, said they were using their favourite site more often. 

“The trend shows some social media fatigue among early adopters, and the fact that 31pc of Aspirers (younger, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers) indicated that they were getting bored with their social network is a situation that social media providers should monitor, as they will need to innovate and diversify to keep consumer attention,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

“Branded content needs to be kept fresh and must be able to capture people’s attention instantly. The new generation of consumers is restless and short on attention span, and a lot of creativity is needed to make a meaningful impact,” Blau added. 

Gartner analysts also examined whether the type of social media site respondents used affected their enthusiasm. Given that 24pc of respondents indicated they were using their main social site “a little less” or “a lot less” than when they first started using it, respondents were asked what negative factors might be influencing their decision.

Concerns about online privacy

Although none of the options given to the respondents resonated highly, 33pc said they were concerned about online privacy. Attitudes to privacy were also age-related, with teenagers citing privacy concerns less often than older respondents (22pc of teenagers agreed or strongly agreed that privacy concerns were decreasing their enthusiasm, against an average of 33pc).

“The level of consumer concern around privacy will require ongoing vigilance for brands concerning customer opt-in and education. Lessons should be learned from the likes of Facebook as they test the boundaries of consumer tolerance in search of more revenue,” Patrick said.

From a geographical point of view, some of the more mature social media markets — Japan, the UK and the US — corresponded to the global average trend — with roughly 40pc of respondents using the site more than when they first started, 40pc using it the same amount, and 20pc using it less.

Markets where enthusiasm was higher included South Korea and Italy, where nearly 50pc of respondents said they used their social media sites more. At the other end of the spectrum, countries with the most respondents saying they used the site less included Brazil and Russia — both with 30-40pc of respondents exhibiting less enthusiasm.