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Facebook Unveils Tools to Help Businesses Keep Up With Customers' Comments

2.5 billion a month and counting

Facebook's new tools could help shops respond quickly to customers online. Facebook

Facebook unveiled new features for Pages today that could help businesses better handle the flood of customer communication coming from mobile devices.

The Menlo Park-based company announced that its total active business Pages has increased from 45 million to 50 million over the few months. And how many comments do all those pages generate? Around 2.5 billion a month, Facebook's product marketing director Benji Shomair told Adweek.

Shomair said broad-based growth of comments and pages for both large and small businesses around the world is "staggering."

"The scale of the platform—50 million businesses around the world—we think is pretty material," he said.

The updates are yet another example of how tech companies are increasingly investing in and betting on mobile devices. According to a recent comScore report, Americans spent nearly 70 hours in smartphone apps in June. Facebook's mobile app plays prominently into that mix, ranking in the top three apps for 80 percent of cell phone users. (The report also pointed out that users spend 50 percent of their time in their most used app.)

To help companies cope with the barrage of comments and messages from customers arriving all hours of the day and night, the tech giant has introduced new tools to better manage them—and in the process also better manage expectations.

Updated responses

One of the new features allows Pages administrators the option to post a company's responsiveness badge to make it more clear how quickly users should expect a response. The options range from "within minutes" to "within a day," expanding on a feature the company introduced this summer rewarding businesses that respond to 90 percent of comments within five minutes.

"Up until now, you message the page and then you just wait," Facebook's product marketing director Benji Shomair told Adweek. "While small, I think that [new feature] can have a really powerful effect."

Businesses now can send pre-written replies to say hello or offer helpful information before it has a chance to respond personally. Or they can change their status to "away" during off hours. Shomair said messages received when a business is away won't count against their responsiveness rate.

"Think about the old sign that people would have over their door, 'away for 5 minutes' or 'be back in 20 minutes,'" he said.

Redesigned inbox

In addition to adding front-end ways for businesses to communicate, Facebook has added features on the back end that provide more context about people who send messages. Based on public information posted on the user's profile, administrators can see their current city (which could help determine their time zone or which store they've visited). 

Facebook also introduced a new Activity tab that allows admins to monitor comments on their Pages; they can now pull up a customer's entire comment and response history with the business. And comments can be flagged for follow up, replied to privately or marked as done.

"We think it's a great signal to help provide additional confidence for people to message businesses and to be able to have a quicker response," Shomair said.

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