Facebook testing private messages for Pages

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Facebook is testing a mechanism for brands to communicate privately with consumers via their Facebook Pages, said a Facebook spokesperson on Dec. 19.

Via a “Message” button on a brand's Page, consumers will be able to privately message companies. In addition to consumer-to-brand private messaging, the feature would give brands the ability to privately respond to comments or posts on their Pages, according to the Next Web, which first reported news of the feature on Dec. 19.

Page administrators will have the ability to disallow the private messaging capability, according to the Next Web report.

The Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on specific details about the private messaging feature, such as whether Page administrators will be able to initiate private messages outside of responding to a post or comment.

Jake Wengroff, global director of social media strategy and research at research firm Frost & Sullivan, said the private messaging feature is “good news” for brands looking to address consumer feedback in a more discreet fashion.

“This could perhaps reduce the airing of dirty laundry that a lot of brands experience when angry consumers take to the brands' Facebook Wall to communicate something negative,” said Wengroff.

News of the private messaging feature comes as Facebook competitors Twitter and Google+ have recently debuted brand-friendly social offerings. Twitter said on Dec. 8 that it had begun to launch brand pages. In November, Google started rolling out Google+ Pages, whose “Hangouts” feature allows brands to conduct video chats with consumers. Hangouts are limited to 10 participants, but Christian Oestlien, head of social advertising products at Google, said that Google has allowed some brands to broadcast Hangouts to thousands of consumers via Hangouts on Air.

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