Facebook has rolled out a new feature that enables businesses to communicate privately with users through messages, as part of its continuing efforts to make its stand-alone Messenger app into a platform in its own right.
Businesses will be able to privately message any users that have posted a comment on the business' Facebook page, enabling them to respond to questions, complaints and other customer comments.
The feature is accompanied by a new ad format for the company's main app and website, which enables businesses to include a 'Send Message' button on Newsfeed ads, enabling users to begin a private conversation with a brand.
The change is part of Facebook's attempts to convince small and medium-sized businesses to advertise on its platform, especially in fast-growing emerging markets like Brazil, India and Indonesia. By providing businesses with a way to directly communicate with customers in a private way, the social network is hoping to appeal to small companies where every customer counts.
To encourage quick responses, firms that respond to 90 per cent of messages within an average of five minutes will be awarded with a 'Very Responsive to Messages' badge for their business page.
The feature is expected to be extremely popular in Thailand, Singapore and other southeast Asian nations, where most users follow at least one company page, and twice the average number of users send Facebook messages to businesses each month.