The world's largest social network has begun rolling out functionality that allows Page owners and individual Facebook users to exchange private messages.
Unlike on Twitter, where either party can initiate a direct message, Facebook is requiring that the individual initiate the conversation for now at least.
For brands, social media was supposed to open the door to one-to-one engagement with customers, but in practice, it has for many become primarily a one-to-many marketing platform.
The reason is simple: 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. Facebook may be looking to change that slightly, however.
As TheNextWeb notes, this new functionality opens the door to "a greater level of customer service on Facebook". While social media is often more of a marketing platform than a tool for one-on-one communication, more than a few brands are using social media as a customer service channel (or quasi-customer service channel). Now those brands will have an opportunity to do more on Facebook.
Of course, brands interested in using Facebook as a customer service delivery platform will need to consider whether it makes sense. Providing customer service well through services like Twitter and Facebook isn't always easy - and there is certainly risk for brands that try to use tools that aren't designed specifically for customer service.
That said, Facebook's move to facilitate more direct interaction between brands and users is a good one and brands with significant Facebook followings will probably want to explore and make decisions about this new functionality sooner than later.