Facebook targets businesses as personal use slides

New Messenger tools will make it easier for companies and customers to chat via Facebook

Facebook has unveiled a set of tools to make it easier for businesses on the platform to chat with customers via Messenger. 

That comes amid further plans to extend the business utility of the social network via bots - but also alongside research that suggests fewer users post personal information in their feed. 

Facebook said a billion messages are already sent between would-be customers and businesses via its Messenger tool, and wants to encourage that behaviour with tweaks to make it easier to find companies. 

To start, a business' Page has a unique username. That will now be used in Messenger, to make it easier to find the right company.

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"Usernames help people find businesses on both Facebook and Messenger, so they can connect with and message the businesses they're interested in more easily," the company said in a blog post. "Because each username is unique, they also help people to identify your exact business, even if you have a relatively common name."

Facebook also introduced Messenger Links and Messenger Codes. Click the link, or scan the QR-style code, and it opens up a Messenger conversation with the business.

"Businesses can use Messenger Links and Messenger Codes in ads, on their website or in any other marketing channel to prompt people to reach out to them directly," Facebook explained. 

Last, Facebook is letting businesses set a welcome note in Messenger conversations. "Businesses can use this text to greet people and set a friendly tone while letting people know what types of messages are expected," the company explained. 

Reports suggest Facebook is working on further business-friendly tools, including chatbots and embedded chat tools, and will announced APIs for both at its F8 conference next week. 

While chatbots may have a dark mark on their reputation thanks to the misbehaving Tay chatbot that Microsoft unleashed on Twitter last month, they could be handy for answering basic queries for small businesses. 

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Facebook's focus on business comes as personal sharing is slipping, according to a report in The Verge. Overall sharing fell by 5.5% in the year to summer 2015, and the number of personal updates (as opposed to posting links or sharing others' stories) fell by more than a fifth over the same period. 

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