As the world braces for Facebook's earthshaking IPO, a new AP-CNBC poll suggests that most Americans don't trust Facebook and are not optimistic about the company's future. In question after question, participants expressed concerns about privacy, the ads, the stock price, the ability of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and the very idea that Facebook will hold their attention over the long haul.
Even as the company made the decision to raise the share price for its IPO amid overwhelming demand, the poll raises series questions about the ability of the company to continue making money at such a furious pace. More than 80 percent of the respondents say they've never clicked on a Facebook ad and more than half say they wouldn't feel safe buying goods or services through the site. Nearly 60 percent say they don't trust Facebook to keep their personal information private and the overall favorability of the company lags far behind Google, Apple, and even Microsoft. (Though way ahead of Twitter.)
Despite the poor reputation people still continue to use the site in overwhelming numbers — 900 million accounts worldwide, at an average of seven hours per month, per user — but the numbers here do suggest trouble for the long term. Forty-six percent of the people polled say they expect something better will come along to replace it. Facebook users are extremely engaged, for now, but the opportunity still exists for competitors to make dents or for the company's own missteps to send them away in droves.
Given the lack of viable competitors at the moment, Facebook appears fairly safe, but it's the revenue questions that have to be concerning both to the company and the potential investors lining up for the stock. With the vast majority of online revenue coming from advertising sales and e-commerce becoming more important all the time, the company must find ways to both get more clicks and instill more confidence in it users. Yet, overwhelming the site with bigger, more aggressive advertising is sure to turn off customers. Such questions are easier to ignore or put off when you're a growing start up, but the transition from private to public means that there will be a much lower tolerance for slowdowns in growth and revenue.
The good news for Zuckerberg is that despite all the scrutiny that comes from being a billionaire owner of a large public company, a lot of people still don't really know who he is. Nine percent said they had never even heard of him and only 27 percent of Americans saw The Social Network. (Although those who had actually like him more, interestingly enough.)