July 23, 2014 at 10:49 AM ET
It's an interesting paradox. Social media is extremely popular, and yet for many users of sites like Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter, it's not very satisfying. In fact, these are some of the worst-performing companies tracked by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
Social media scored 71 out of 100 in the latest ACSI survey, making it the fourth lowest-scoring category measured, only above airlines (69), subscription TV (65) and Internet service providers (63).
"We have very high expectations for these sites," said ACSI director David VanAmburg. "We love them, but we also hate them." Users expressed dissatisfaction with advertisements. There's also growing concern about privacy.
Overall, social media improved a bit since last year, up 4.4 percent. Pinterest is the clear favorite with an ACSI score of 76, the first time the site has topped the social media category in this survey.
"Pinterest is easy to use; they've done quite a bit in recent months to improve the functionality of the site; and they're definitely head and shoulders above some of the other really big guys out there," VanAmburg told CNBC.
Among the other big names, Google+ had a 71, while Twitter jumped 6 points to 69, its highest score to date. This follows a site redesign that makes it easier to integrate photos and video.
Even though Facebook and LinkedIn improved since 2013—both are up 8 points—they remain tied at 67 for the least-satisfying social media sites.
"It's great to see that we've made improvements in the ranking," LinkedIn said it a statement. "Clearly more work can be done, and we are actively looking into more ways to improve the LinkedIn experience."
The new survey also looked at search engines and found Google to be the clear favorite, scoring 83 out of 100, up 8 points from last year. It seems users like the changes Google made for labeling ads and improving the readability of search results.
"Google is really the king for search," VanAmburg said. "Everyone else in the game is basically an also-ran here."
The satisfaction rating for Microsoft's Bing dropped 4 points (73) and Yahoo! (71) lost 7 points, its lowest score ever. AOL is at the bottom of the category with a 70. Microsoft and AOL did not respond to request for comment. Bing said it had nothing to share. A Yahoo! spokesman said the company does not comment on third-party metrics.
People who use search engines tend to be pleased with the experience. They rate the "freshness" of the content far better than that of newspaper or social media sites. While users still dislike the amount of advertising, they seem more willing to accept it on search engines than on social media, news or opinion websites.