Facebook has begun introducing a new feature which allows business pages to receive private messages from their fans on the social network.

The new communications option, which has appeared for Asia-based admins only so far — although this could be down to time difference — is a significant introduction that will allow businesses to interact more closely with customers on the service than ever before.

Consumer facing businesses will find the feature particularly useful as it enables more personal communication with individual customers, opening the possible of a greater level of customer service on Facebook. The move is also likely to cut down on the pain of off-topic comments on company pages and reduce communication lost when Facebook fans fail to take their comments to customer service channels outside of the social network.

The move isn’t an all out opportunity for business to contact customers, however, as communication must be initiated by the customer. However, once that has been done, the conversation is open to both parties.

A possible negative effect of the new messaging feature and less public communication with brands, could be lower rates of organic growth for business pages. Facebook socialises each fan’s interactions with a page —  sharing likes, shares, comments, and other interactions fans make there, with their friends — which can help raise a page’s visibility. So, more private messages may lead to less public comments, which could curtail this growth somewhat.

Facebook page admins in Asia woke up to the following information box which explains more:

facebookprivatemessage 1 Facebook introduces private messages between business pages and fans

The introduction comes as Google claims that it has raised the stakes for social customer services through Google+, as Bradley Horowitz, who heads up the social network, recently explained.

Horowitz believes Google+ is offering a new way for companies to interact with customers, thanks to customer differentiation — with companies able to grade their followers to gold, silver or bronze levels — and Hangouts which offers the possibility to “really put a face on a brand” when dealing with customers.

Twitter also allows customers to reach out to companies directly, however — under current terms — both company and customer must be following each other and conversations are constrained to the service’s 140 character maximum.

What do you think? Has Facebook taken a significant step towards owning customer-business communications, or would you prefer to keep your communication within existing channels, such as email or the phone? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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