Report: Brand Perception Suffers in 2010 for Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace

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WebProNews received some interesting findings from YouGov BrandIndex, indicating that it has not been a good year for public perception of social media brands (which in this case includes Google, Yahoo, Bing, and AOL, in addition to more obvious brands like Facebook and MySpace).

"2010 was a tough year for public perception of the top social media companies -- Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and MySpace all suffered lower positive perception by the end of the year," a spokesperson for YouGov BrandIndex tells us. "AOL was the only major brand to actually have a better 'buzz' score by the end of the year than in January, but the company is still seen more negatively than positively."

"Bing lost just a little ground over the course of the year, making them an even proposition," he adds.

YouGov BrandIndex looks at brand perception of social media players

The scores are compiled simply by subtracting negative feedback from positive, with  a zero meaning equal positive and negative feedback. The scores are measured based on the firm's "buzz score" which asks respondents the question: "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?"

YouGov BrandIndex interviews 5,000 people each weekday from what it calls "a representative US population sample," with more than 1.2 million interviews per year.

Clearly there are other significant players in the social media space that are absent from this list. Twitter, is obviously missing. It would be interesting to see how it has been perceived throughout the year compared to the other brands. 

"One interesting tale in the chart: on January 1, 2010, AOL and MySpace were pretty much at the same spot in negative perception territory," the spokesperson points out. "After March, the two companies took different paths -- AOL modestly rose and hung in there, while MySpace stumbled, went back up briefly during their fall relaunch, and then plummeted down worse than ever. MySpace began the year at -9.5 and they're now at -15.2. The best score MySpace has had since September 2007 was November 5, 2008, when it reached -3.1." 

That's about the time when TechCrunch reported that MySpace's month-old MyAds product was a $50 million business. 

Other highlights YouGov BrandIndex points to are as follows:

- Google was rocking at 44 in early January and stayed around there until the end of April, when it began a long slide that brought it down to 32.9 at the end of September. It regained ground up to 36, where it stays today, not returning near its January 1st high. That 32.9 score at the end of September was Google's lowest buzz score in three years.

- Yahoo started at 30, drifted down a few points over the course of several months until around Labor Day, and then really accelerated, losing several points until early December, where it is now 21.6.

- Facebook took the most dramatic journey with its privacy and usability controversies. Virtually tied with Yahoo on January 1st at 30, it hovered in the high 20's until the end of April, and then the bottom just dropped out, hitting a low of 10.3 on July 7th. Facebook crawled back up to 17.7 on August 12th, went a couple of more points to 19.6 at the end of September, and is now back at 15.7. The Facebook low of 10.3 on July 7th was its lowest score since Christmas of 2008.

- Bing remained steady all year at around 12, and then began shaving through October, where it is now 9.6. Really a small drop in the scheme of things.

- AOL is the only company here that ended up with a higher score now than where it began, albeit in negative perception territory (but not deep). On January 1st, they were -7.5 and they're now -4.3. Worth noting that along the way, they took a stumble that began at the end of June that brought them down on August 17th to -10.5 and then recovered to its present -4.3 range in mid-October. AOL is currently at its best buzz score since September 2007.

Studies like these must be taken with a grain of salt, but it's not hard to believe that public perception of some of these brand suffered given all the privacy stories in the news over the course of the year.  

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.