The Most Hated Companies on the Internet: Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., & LinkedIn Corp.

By Markets Fool.com

Facebook , Twitter , andLinkedIn were the three most hated tech companies in America last year, according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. The ACSI, which is based on an economic model from the University of Michigan, collects data on customer loyalty and satisfaction for major brands throughout the year.

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Meanwhile, Amazon, Apple, and Googlewere respectively the first, second, and third most loved tech companies on that list. Let's take a closer look at why Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn plunged to the bottom.

Facebook: privacy issues and emotion experiments
Facebook's biggest PR problems have been privacy related. Over the past few years, the company repeatedly altered privacy settings to gather more data from profiles. In 2013, Facebook started using user profile pictures in "social ads", which used user profile pictures to sell products. That controversial strategy prompted a fierce backlash from privacy advocates.

Source: Pixabay

Last year, Facebook admitted that it ran an "emotion manipulation" experiment on nearly 700,000 users in 2012. The company manipulated their News Feeds to only show positive or negative posts, and recorded whether or not that affected their subsequent posts. That revelation fueled a firestorm of debates about whether or not Facebook had crossed ethical lines.

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Despite those PR setbacks, Facebook's monthly active users (MAUs), revenue, and average revenue per user (ARPU) have all continued to rise.

Year

2012

2013

2014

MAUs

1.06 billion

1.23 billion

1.39 billion

Revenue

$5.09 billion

$7.87 billion

$12.47 billion

ARPU

$4.80

$6.40

$8.97

Source: Facebook earnings reports

People might not agree with Facebook's tactics, but its business is still growing at a healthy rate. As long as all three of those figures keep rising, marketers will keep flocking to Facebook.

Twitter: the dark side of free speech
Back in 2010, when Twitter had just 30 million MAUs, the social network prided itself on being a platform for free speech. But today, with nearly 300 million MAUs, Twitter's reputation has been tarnished by trolls, cyberbullies, and criminals.

In 2013, a fake AP tweet about a White House bombing caused major stock indexes to temporarily crash. Earlier this year, a Twitter troll grounded two airplanes with a fake bomb threat. Twitter has also been used as a cyberbullying and hate-mongering platform for GamerGate death threats, the KKK, and even ISIS.

Source: Pixabay

In other words, Twitter became a chaotic showcase for the dark side of free speech. To make matters worse, Twitter admits that at least 8.5% of its MAUs are bots, spam accounts, or third party apps. Moreover, an entire gray market for these fake, algorithm-generated "followers" exists for publicity-seeking self-promoters.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter hasn't been able to grow through its problems. MAU growth has slowed down dramatically -- last quarter, MAUs rose 20% year-over-year to 288 million, compared to 30% growth a year earlier. That's a far cry from the goal of 400 million MAUs set by CEO Dick Costolo back in 2013. Moreover, Twitter is still unprofitable on a GAAP basis.

LinkedIn: A job search site with an identity crisis
On the surface, LinkedIn is an ideal replacement for dated resume sites like Monster Worldwide's Monster.com. Yet LinkedIn is also a social networking site. Therein lies the problem: social networking sites need frequent engagement, but job search sites are usually only used while switching jobs.

According to Alexa, LinkedIn visitors only spend an average of less than eight minutes on the site per day. Facebook visitors spend nearly 18 minutes on the site daily. To boost its rate of engagement, LinkedIn sends notification emails to linked accounts. These notifications range include direct messages, invitations, job suggestions, and various updates from contacts and groups.

However, that connection also allows spam messages from LinkedIn inboxes to be directly sent to user's personal email accounts. That unpopular strategy, which resulted in a lawsuit last year, is likely what hurt LinkedIn's ACSI ranking the most.

Source: Pixabay

To diversify its brand, LinkedIn acquired companies like social content sharing site SlideShare, job-matching site Bright, news reader Pulse, and education site Lynda. It also unbundled its site into various stand-alone mobile apps.

Last quarter, LinkedIn reported that it had 347 million members,up 25% from 277 million members a year earlier. However, its unique visiting members only rose 22% to 93 million. This means that despite all of LinkedIn's desperate attempts to bring users back to its site, just 27% of them visited the site on a regular basis. To make matters worse, Facebook recently introduced "Facebook at Work", a rival social platform for enterprise users.

The bottom line
Being "hated" doesn't necessarily doom a company. Privacy advocates might despise some of Facebook's business strategies, but it still has an untouchable lead in social networking. Twitter and LinkedIn, however, have glaring fundamental flaws which could derail their long-term growth if they're not careful.

The article The Most Hated Companies on the Internet: Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., & LinkedIn Corp. originally appeared on Fool.com.

Leo Sun owns shares of Apple and Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), LinkedIn, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), LinkedIn, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.