Fresh content needed as users hit social fatigue

Lower enthusiasm and awareness of privacy issues contribute to user fatigue on social media sites, finds new survey from Gartner, which highlights need for reinvention.

The social media market is showing signs of maturity with users in certain segments showing "social media fatigue", though big global brands are making headway in countries that they have traditionally not been strong.

According to a new Gartner survey released Tuesday, 24 percent of respondents said they used their favorite social media site less often than when they first signed up for the platform. These respondents tended to have a more hands-on view of the technology, noted the research firm.

However, 37 percent of respondents, especially those in younger age groups and more tech-savvy segments, said they were using their favorite site more often, the survey found.

The survey polled 6,295 respondents, between Dec. 2010 and Jan. 2011, who were aged 13 to 74 and from 11 developed and developing countries. These markets included Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Findings in the more mature social media markets of Japan, the United Kingdom and U.S. were more consistent with the global average trend, with approximately 40 percent of respondents using social media sites more than when they first started. Forty percent spent the same amount of time on such sites, while 20 percent spent less time, according to Gartner.

South Korea and Italy saw higher enthusiasm with over 50 percent of respondents saying they used their social media sites more often. At the other end of the spectrum were Brazil and Russia which saw between 30 and 40 percent of respondents showing less enthusiasm for social networks.

"Overall, our survey underlined respondents' continued enthusiasm for social media," Charlotte Patrick, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.

She explained that teenagers and respondents in their twenties were considerably more likely to state increased usage, although age-related differences were less marked among respondents who spent less time on social networks.

Need to keep "fresh"
The survey also illustrated some social media fatigue among early adopters and 31 percent of younger, more mobile and brand-conscious consumers who indicated they were getting bored with their social network, noted Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

"[This] is a situation that social media providers should monitor as they will need to innovate and diversify to keep consumer attention," Blau said in the report, adding that branded content had to be "kept fresh" and instantly capture users' attention.

"The new generation of consumers is restless and short on attention span, and a lot of creativity is needed to make a meaningful impact," he explained.

Asked what contributed to the lower consumption of social networks, 33 percent indicated they were concerned with online privacy, though none of the options given resonated greatly among the survey respondents. Others attributed to a general decline in enthusiasm, with some respondents describing social networking sites as "boring" or their contacts "superficial", Gartner said.

Concerns over online privacy were age-related, with 22 percent of teenagers citing such this as a reason for their decreased enthusiasm for social media, which was lower than older respondents at 33 percent.

Survey respondents preferred to consume rather than create content, for example, previewing their friends' status or photos. Early adopters, however, were more likely to create content and tap communications functionalities such as instant messaging, Gartner said.

Patrick noted that the level of user concern around privacy pointed to the need among brands for constant vigilance 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," she said.


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