The popular social network may let customers privately contact brands they follow. This functionality may help communication, but takes brand presence away from the news stream.

Facebook is now testing private messages for Pages - Facebook members can contact brands that are in their network by other means than public wall posts. Though not rolled out in the US as of this writing, Pages will have a “Message” button on their profile, much as individual profile pages do. The functionality relies upon customers opening the conversation - brands do not get to private message their fans, the customer clicks the button to message first.

Private messaging may help customer service, hinder social network exposure

This development may help brands to improve their customer service, while not giving them a new channel to spam their followers along with the new functionality. It will be interesting to see if Facebook implements some sort of time lock on the message conversation, so brands cannot simply reply to a previous conversation every time they want to promote something. Either way, the new option should be very useful for both brands and their customers, though TheNextWeb suggests that there is a possible downside to the development. Since all former brand interaction was public, it would show up in network news feeds, spreading awareness to brand fans’ friends. With private messaging’s possible popularity, brands will get less opportunity to show up in the news stream, and may see less new interest than they would otherwise. Brands can, according to PCWorld, now also confidentially respond to public wall posts, or opt out of Page private messages.

Now most of the major social networks have direct private communication channels

This rounds out Facebook’s offerings to brands as compared to those of Twitter and Google+. In Twitter, customers can direct message companies, which does not show up in the private feed, however they are limited to 140 characters in their communication. Google+ pages also offer private communication, as Talking Points Memo points out. But as the same article questions, why would one elect to contact a brand on a social network site in such an asocial way? If individuals need a direct line, they have e-mail and corporate sites readily available.

By Ivory King