Facebook looking to conduct phone interviews with Poke users

Facebook is looking to conduct some user research for its latest mobile app, Poke, including phone interviews to understand how people use and feel about the service.

The social network is using Ethn.io to recuit participants through Facebook ads that lead to a short questionnaire. Users will receive $75 Amazon gift card if they are selected to be interviewed over Skype or GoToMeeting. Facebook is requesting that participants have a webcam. [Update 1/10/13 1:19 p.m. PST – Facebook is also using SurveyMonkey to recruit participants for interviews at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, Calif. The SurveyMonkey form asks users additional questions, including what type of phone they have and an example of how they use Poke if at all.]

Poke is a standalone app for iPhone that allows users to send messages, photos or video to their friends for a designated period of time. After a few seconds, the content is removed from the app. The app, which is largely a clone of the popular Snapchat application, was reportedly built in 12 days. It launched on Dec. 21, 2012, hit No. 1 on the App Store’s free apps list, but has since slid to No. 343. Snapchat, on the other hand, has sat between No. 3 and No. 9 for the past month. Today it’s No. 6.

Facebook likely wants to get a better understanding of who’s using Poke, how and why — or why not. Usage numbers can tell one side of the story, but interviews can reveal other important insights. Facebook has a research team that creates surveys, conducts phone and in-person interviews, and sometimes even visits people at home to ask questions that could help Facebook design better products in the future.

Poke is interesting because it is playful while the rest of Facebook is very much a utility. Although seemingly inane at first, we see the app as adding an important new layer to Facebook because it enables people to share certain moments that only otherwise happen in person, whereas the rest of Facebook feels so permanent. But among many adults the app, like Snapchat, has the bad reputation of being something for kids, or even a “sexting” application. For younger users who were using Snapchat before Poke, Facebook’s version might not be necessary. Facebook also faces user distrust over privacy issues, which could be in conflict with what people want out of an ephemeral messaging service.

Facebook’s research could give the company a clearer idea of what direction to take Poke from here.