Facebook is going to give businesses some social customer support power that is usually provided by external management tools.

In order to provide a more integrated shopping experience, Facebook is adding a "Send Message" button that will allow users to send private messages to business pages directly from news feed ads.

Messages to pages will include attachments that show which ad prompted each user to reach out. Nick Hoppe, director of media strategy for social media agency The Movement Strategy, thinks that this feature can help businesses better handle customer relations and generate leads.

"I think there's lots of value in the Send Message button from a non-data-driven standpoint," he says. "The button can serve as a lead generation tool; if someone were to see an ad about a product and then immediately send a message to the company to find out where that product is available near them, there could be considerable value in running ads with that feature."


Facebook will also allow businesses to reply to public comments with private messages, which could help businesses manage their brand image on the platform.

"When consumers are disgruntled, they post negative sentiment towards a brand to its Facebook page, which could have a ripple effect on other consumers and hurt the business. But now, brands will be able to handle customer requests more efficiently via private messages," Hoppe says.

Stephanie Shkolnik, director of marketing strategy for global digital agency Mirum, agrees that moving sensitive conversations into private messages will mitigate potential spin out of consumer complains. However, she points out that brands should leave a note showing that they are going to handle a request.

"The community manager should indicate publicly that they will be reaching out privately so other consumers in any given thread can that a brand (Read more...) being responsive," Shkolnik says.


Facebook will add a "very responsive to messages" badge on pages that respond to 90 percent of messages and have a median response time of less than five minutes. This will benefit small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as more and more consumers are looking for immediate responses from brands on social media, according to Shkolnik.

Because SMBs may not have the resources to provide around-the-clock live chat options, she recommends indicating the hours their team members will be responding to live assistance on their Facebook.

"This will ensure customers have a clear understanding of when they can expect a response," Shkolnik says. "From there, it's in the business's hands to ensure they align this availability and response time to properly serve customers."

In spite of those merits, responsiveness ratings could put lots of pressure on businesses, especially when they are bombarded with consumer requests. Hoppe gives an example of users repeatedly sending messages to a travel agent, asking about the price of a flight.

"This is not how they are supposed to use Facebook," he says. "The flip side of responsiveness ratings is, businesses could receive many messages from consumers who are misusing Facebook while they will get published by the platform if [the businesses] don't reply to those messages in a timely manner."

Facebook declined to disclose a product roadmap. But with these new features, the platform can give SMBs some social customer support power that big brands buy through external management tools.

Shkolnick thinks it will be interesting to keep an eye on the various tools in the social marketplace and their eventual impact.

"Facebook may be poised to take market share from these tools that have built their businesses on social networks, or maybe brands will continue to leverage holistic external tools that streamline day-to-day productivity serving multiple networks in one place," she says.

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