Are we feeling social media malaise?

Social network

ANALYSIS Signs that a significant chunk of people are getting tired of social networks have emerged.

At least that's according to analyst firm Gartner, which carried out a survey of over 6,000 people, claiming it showed a "consumer fatigue" with the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

The dissatisfaction was highlighted by 31 per cent of what Gartner called Aspirers "younger, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers" - saying they were getting bored with social networks.

At the same time, however, the data showed a continuing enthusiasm for social networks. Almost two-fifths of respondents said they were using their favorite site more, compared to the 24 per cent who were using their preferred social network less.

Gartner's figures and statements juxtaposed were a tad ambiguous. On the one hand it is clear social networks are still proving massively popular, with growth across the board. Yet Gartner explicitly said there is a "fatigue" amongst a certain demographic. Furthermore, there was no reference to previous studies for a useful comparison.

Is there really a malaise creeping over Facebook and Twitter users? Should Web 2.0 companies even care?

Tiresome times

It's impossible to deny the growth of social networks. The number of tweets being sent has seen a 250 per cent increase in the last year, whilst Zuckerburg's behemoth is edging closer to that one billion membership milestone.

There have been reports of people ditching Facebook in their droves, but they have been but minor dents in the firm's inexorable rise.

Nevertheless, Gartner believes there are inklings this success is in jeopardy, as certain key users are getting bored. Could this hinder the future expansion and success of social networks? It is Gartner's belief user dissatisfaction is nothing to scoff at.

Given social media is proving to be such an expensive beast, businesses might be hoping the fatigue really does settle in.

Charlotte Patrick, principal research analyst at Gartner, said social networks hoping to keep users interested would do well to focus on widening their communications capabilities.

"There appears to be a trend for comms to become an important part and any social network needs to expand their comms side," Patrick told IT Pro.

"They then need to keep on coming up with new bits and pieces, adding new functionality to drag people back."

Facebook has already made some big moves in the comms space, adding its own email-like feature, introducing instant messenger functionality and forging a partnership with Skype.

Focusing on privacy is also key, according to Patrick. The Gartner data showed 33 per cent of respondents were concerned about online privacy something Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for.

"I would think [focusing on privacy would be a good idea], just so people know what it is what social networks are doing and why," Patrick added.

"It's how you reassure people you're not doing a Facebook really."

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.