For businesses on Facebook, part of the charm is the opportunity to publically display exceptional levels of  customer service through dealing with potential issues on a personal level. Of course, users love this because they can vent their frustrations in front of potentially millions of other fans in order to receive a speedy response.

However, sometimes a public display isn’t always needed, and for shy types, or in certain Facebook communities a private conversation may be more appropriate. Pages of a sensitive nature that deal with health related issues, for example.

To tend to those needs, Facebook has started testing a new feature that will appeal to page owners and users alike, allowing users to avoid the attentions of the public and message pages privately.

Unlike Twitter, where either party can initiate conversation, the user must make the first move. However, once that has been done, the conversation is open to both parties. A good way of stopping the spam, but also allows page owners to follow up on important conversations.

Social media as a ‘one-on-one communication platform’, is more theory than reality, with most brands preferring to market to the masses rather than individuals. There are exceptions of course, but the sheer volumes of many pages makes targeting individuals near impossible.

As a recent blog post by Econsultancy says; “when you have a few hundred thousand followers on Twitter or a few million fans on Facebook, it’s far easier to market to consumers than it is to communicate with them”.

Perhaps this new feature is a reflection that Facebook has identified the need for a more personal approach to social marketing?

Whatever Facebook’s agenda, it does seem like a step in the right direction. And much of the web seems to agree.

Looking at a number of comments on various industry blogs, the response to this new feature appears to be overly positive, with most Facebook users and businesses saying that they would use the feature.

What do you think? Who does this really benefit? Is there a danger that businesses will be deterred by the extra management required? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.