Facebook rolled out features on Wednesday that enable businesses to privately communicate with customers through messages as part of the social networking company's push to make its Messenger app a stand-alone platform.
Businesses can now include a "send message" button in ads that appear in Newsfeed that allow Facebook users to click a button and send messages, which are private. If users post a comment on a business' Facebook page, then the business can privately message that person.
The features are part of Facebook's efforts to convince more small and medium-sized businesses - especially those in emerging markets, such as India, Brazil and Indonesia - to advertise on its platform.
By giving them direct access to customers, the world's largest social network hopes to show that advertising on Facebook directly leads to increased sales.
To encourage quick responses, Facebook will award "very responsive to messages" badges on business pages that respond to 90 per cent of messages and respond on average within five minutes. People will, however, still be able to block private messages from businesses.
The features will be especially valuable in southeast Asia, Facebook wrote in a blog post. About twice as many Thai and Singaporean users use Facebook messages to communicate with businesses each month and most Southeast Asia users follow some company pages.
Facebook hosts more than 40 million active small and medium business pages, it said, with more than 1 billion page visits each month.