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Facebook Is Making it Easier for Businesses to Chat Privately With Customers Today, the social media giant is rolling out new features making it more attractive for business owners to respond privately and quickly to customer inquiries.

By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The social media megaloth Facebook today announced a new suite of features to make it easier for businesses to use its internal, private chat to talk to customers.

As a business owner, if a customer leaves a comment on your Facebook page, you now have the option to pick up the conversation in the privacy of a personal chat window. Before today, businesses could only respond to a customer through Facebook in the same window from which the customer initiated the communication.

If you have an unhappy customer who is complaining on your business Facebook wall (and who hasn't!), this new feature is a big time public relations relief. It's better for you to be able to complete the conversation with that salty customer in private, off of the main stage of your business Facebook Page. When a company replies privately to a comment, the comment displays a note that the business responded privately, so visitors to your page know you addressed it.

Related: 10 Ways to Maximize Your Facebook Business Page

Facebook is also rolling out a feature that allows customers to message a business directly from an ad in their News Feed. With the embedded "Send Message" button, a customer can seamlessly go from seeing an advertisement to chatting with the business owner online.

To encourage business owners to use the tool, Facebook is giving digital badges to businesses that respond to 90 percent of private messages and have an average response time of less than five minutes. The badge will notify customers that the business in question is "very responsive to messages." Business owners can access real-time measurement of their response rate from a private analytics dashboard connected to their Facebook page.

The new communication tools come at a time when more and more people are using chat or instant message to communicate. Within the year, people will use instant messaging more than they do email, according to a recent report by tech analysis firm Juniper Research. The report estimates that 43 trillion instant messages will be sent this year.

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Related: Analyst: Facebook Native Video Will Thwart YouTube's Throne in a Matter of Months

Catherine Clifford

Frequently covers crowdfunding, the sharing economy and social entrepreneurship.

Catherine Clifford is a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Catherine attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Email her at CClifford@entrepreneur.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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