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Socialized Survey: Stagnation #1 Reason for Leaving a Social Network

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Why does someone choose to join or leave a social network? Read Joel Postman's survey results to find out.
This article appeared originally on Joel Postman's own website, socializedpr.com.

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A recent survey by Socialized revealed that people are primarily drawn to try new social networks because their friends and professional colleagues are on a particular network, and they leave a network that has become “stale, static, or uninteresting.”

As I observed a large number of my Twitter friends migrate to FriendFeed, I became interested in why someone chooses to join or leave a social network.

I posted a brief survey on the topic, and with 141 respondents to date, following are the questions and leading responses.

How many social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, do you belong to and visit regularly?

The survey results indicate that no single social network serves all of a person’s needs. Forty-six percent of respondents said they belonged to between four and seven social networks, with 44 percent saying they belonged to between one and three. Some networks are more professionally focused and others are less formal, so people meet multiple needs through multiple networks.

As new networks pop up, like FriendFeed (and before it Twitter), people are encouraged through various means to try them out (see below), but they are unwilling to abandon their established networks. The networks that are seeing the most current growth tend to be those that bridge the gap between networks through feeds, cross-posting and other integration. FriendFeed is built around this idea, and Facebook Connect has quickly extended the reach and usefulness of that network.

How many social networks do you belong to but do not visit regularly?

Eighty four per cent of respondents belonged to at least one and as many as eight or more networks that they did not visit on a regular basis. This confirms again that no single network serves the needs of a typical social network user, and that there is a regular “churn” going on as users explore new networks but are unwilling to abandon their existing ones. Only 16 percent said they did not belong to any networks that they did not visit.

Which factors influence your decision to join a social network?

The responses to this question were highly varied, and survey participants could provide more than one response. Here are the results:

  • Personal friends are members - 104 responses or 74 percent
  • Professional and business colleagues are members - 98 responses or 70 percent
  • Interface and features are appealing to me - 91 responses or 65 percent
  • Offers a novel way of communicating - 65 responses or 46 percent
  • Direct referral from personal friend - 58 responses or 41 percent
  • Direct referral from professional or business colleague - 48 responses or 34 percent
  • Read about it in a blog - 45 responses or 32 percent
  • Heard/read about it through major media outlet such as CNN or New York Times - 19 responses or 13 percent

This question revealed that the specific presence of business and personal acquaintances is the primary factor driving someone to sign up for a particular social network. Another key consideration is the functionality and “behavior” of the network. I believe this accounts for the current popularity of Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook (the liveliness and consistent appearance and user interface) over MySpace.

It’s also interesting that both blogs and traditional business press were influential in making a decision to join a new network.

Which factors influence your decision to leave a social network?

  • Network seems stale, static, uninteresting - 88 responses or 62 percent
  • No longer feel like membership reflects your interests - 83 responses or 59 percent
  • Change in interface or functionality makes it less appealing - 63 responses or 45 percent
  • Got bored - 61 responses or 43 percent
  • Network became too commercial - 51 responses or 36 percent
  • Lack of policies and/or enforcement make network an undesirable place to be - 30 responses or 21 percent
  • Too many people on network - 13 responses or 9 percent
  • Account suspended - 2 responses or 1 percent

The primary responses to this question are no surprise. People spend time maintaining and using their social networks because it is enjoyable and/or professionally rewarding, and when these things are no longer perceived as part of the experience, they move on. Lack of policies and/or enforcement also appears to be an important consideration for users, but is one that most networks are distancing themselves from. Twitter does not have a “flagging” capability like YouTube for example, but the service does consider the number of times a user has been blocked when deciding to suspend an account. Facebook recently came under fire for allowing Holocaust denial groups to remain on the site. The prevailing attitude is one of “free speech” and community policing.

Complaints about commercialism and overcrowding are common on Twitter, but respondents apparently did not find these factors significant in influencing a decision to leave a network.

This is the first survey of its kind that Socialized has done. I can see already what I would have done differently. For example, some of the responses in the third question gauge how a person learned about a social network, and others measure what it is that was appealing once they had joined. This should have been split into two questions. Most respondents to the survey learned about it through the Socialized blog, Twitter and Social Media Today. This should be kept in mind when analyzing the results as this sample is skewed toward people who are likely to be active and well-informed social networkers.

The survey did not ask respondents to identify specific social networks. comScore and Nielsen Online publish excellent data on which networks are growing, which tells us which networks have the attributes users are looking for (and which ones they are abandoning) so I felt I didn’t need to ask this.

If you’d like to add your responses, the Socialized Social Network Migration Survey is available here.

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