Businesses are a big moneymaker for Facebook, which announced in April that 40 million small companies were signed up to the social network – an increase of ten million year-on-year.
Meanwhile, two million firms are advertising on Facebook, which the Mark Zuckerberg-owned firm will look to expand with the launch of its new private messaging functionality.
Friends have long been able to send direct messages to each other, but businesses have only been able to communicate directly and privately to customers if they receive a message first.
Recognising this needs to change, the company said messaging between friends and family is “fast and convenient and increasingly people want to communicate with businesses in the same efficient way”.
As such, even if a customer sent a comment to the Facebook page rather than a message, the page admins will now have the ability to respond as they see fit – publicly or privately.
More than a billion people now visit pages on a monthly basis to communicate with businesses, thus another Facebook update will see a “Send Message” button added to all ads, which means consumers will be able to make direct contact if a promotion interests them.
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For the business, incoming messages include an attachment that shows the details of the ad that captured the customer’s attention so that an appropriate response can be returned.
“To make sure the messaging experience is valuable for both businesses and people, we’ve built additional tools to help people manage messages, including an option to block private messages from businesses,” the firm said, in the event that existing users are happy with the current method of communications.
Interestingly, the customer service provided by businesses will be rewarded. Just as many pages now feature verified badges, pages tending to customer needs will have a “very responsive to messages” badge on profiles.
Speaking to Real Business about the importance of the SME market, Facebook’s SMB regional director Ciaran Quilty, said: “The clear message we want to send to every business is that no matter how small you are, we do want our tools available for all, and we want them to measure us to drive real business results, whether that’s a lead, website traffic, foot traffic or lifting brand sentiment.
“We want to drive hard business results and I think if we focus on that, it’s the right relationship. Facebook will get timely, interesting, valuable content that’s natural, and conversely businesses grow as users on Facebook grow.”