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Facebook is on a mission to appropriate popular messaging app Snapchat’s users. In February, the Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp started a new feature of Status updates, essentially a photo or very short video update that would self-destruct in 24 hours. Popular photo-sharing network Instagram had introduced a similar feature, Instagram Stories, in August. And now it’s the turn of the Facebook app to add its Stories, which will essentially allow users to share an update that will show up at the top of their friends’ timelines for 24 hours.

Here’s how you can put it to good use.

Why you should do disappearing acts

First made popular by the Snapchat app, disappearing status messages are all about instant emotions—what you’re feeling, seeing or experiencing—expressed through a combination of pictures, videos, GIFs and illustrations, with a 24-hour expiry time. Social networks such as Facebook and Instagram highlight such status updates to make them stand out from the regular ones that you see on your timeline. Messaging platform WhatsApp has a dedicated column in the app, while Instagram and Facebook show the Stories updates in the row along the top, highlighted with a red circle around profile pictures. Using it means your profile becomes top-of-recall on someone’s timeline. It is perhaps a good way of gaining followers.

Tell a story

It could be the story of how your day is going, where you are working, what you’re attending, seeing, eating, or just anything funny. The best status messages push users to see more updates. Play with posts to tell a story about something. Pictures or videos of a concert or sports event, behind-the-scenes at a party, tutorials on a skill set you know best, or a series of genuine personal questions to which your followers can respond privately.

Have some fun

There’s a reason why disappearing status messages offer mixed media. Experiment with everything, be it time-lapse videos, Boomerang loop videos, collages, live shots, images with text or images with icons. Make the disappearing status your experimental ground. Show your creativity, and people might engage more with your main timeline.

Use all the bells and whistles

To decorate your photo, simply load it in the status update within the app to scribble or draw. The Facebook app uses the in-app camera to add more creative filters, lenses and visual geolocation tags while Instagram offers Boomerang videos to experiment with. Try all filters and play around.

Learn from others

How are the people you follow using these status updates? Click on one of the profiles on the top of your feed on Instagram or head to Status on WhatsApp to see what people post. All Status updates auto-play once you open one but you can fast-forward through them by tapping a photo to look at other updates of the same user or swipe right to see the next user’s status. Follow Nasa (@nasa) or National Geographic (@natgeo) on Instagram to see the amazing twists they use to tell a short story on astronomers taking a trip or a day at the zoo, through multiple status updates.

Keep experimenting

Be dorky, nerdy, funny, awkward, see what works for your audience and what doesn’t. Post blurred images, words that express what you feel, be instinctive and easy with your posts. Add in elements, make videos you’ve never made before. Even if you’re representing a brand, keep it fun and easy-going. This is the place where you can make mistakes, experiment with micro-campaigns, dress up content and messages that might be pretty bland in everyday timelines and connect with your followers in a new way. Whatever works can always be saved to your phone and posted on your “proper" timeline.

Be edgy, and ask for feedback

The status messages are flashes in the pan, immediately consumed, immediately responded to. Think about them as opinion or a dialogue. Post things that surprise, are unexpected, make people think and react. And ask for feedback. This will increase user engagement and get more users to your main timeline.

Post through 12 hours

Each status is highlighted for 24 hours, so post a different status every couple of hours, through the day. That way, you get variety—be it your mood or what you’re capturing now. Remember, the status updates constantly need a lot of creative media, so do at least six-eight status updates in a day to be top-of-recall.

Don’t try to be Shakespeare

Keep it short. Limit your word count to a single sentence since most users will see your update for just a split second. So if you post waddles of text, people will just swipe it away. A single line, a few words or, better still, a mix of words and visuals would be best. If you’re doing a story, keep it short too. Most users just see a couple of updates from the same user on both Instagram and WhatsApp. So if you’re planning that twist in the tale, don’t wait too long.

Be cautious with privacy

Told the boss you’re sick while you are attending a music concert in Ooty? Be careful when you post the event’s images in status updates. As a norm, anyone who follows you on Instagram and Facebook, and anyone in your contact list on WhatsApp, can see these statuses. However, you can control who sees these updates through the privacy settings both social networks offer. In Instagram, for instance, click on three vertical dots at the bottom right and choose Story Settings to control who shouldn’t see the story and who can message a response. Facebook asks you if you want to send it directly to someone, post it as your story or post with specific settings.

How to go about it

On Instagram

■Click on the plus icon in the top left-hand corner of the screen.

■Click on the photo/video button to capture a shot or take a Boomerang. You can also use pictures or videos you’ve taken in the last 24 hours by swiping the camera icon. Add text, scribbles or emoticons.

■Choose whom to send it to by clicking on the send key (resembles an arrow in a white circle).

On Whatsapp

■Click on Status, and then on the circular plus icon in the top right corner. u Record or click, add a caption or text, scribble or emoticon.

■Once ready, click on the right arrow in the green circle to send.

On Facebook

■Click on the camera icon at the top left corner of the screen.

■Tap the photo/video button or click on the card icon on the bottom right to choose an earlier photo.

■Once you’ve chosen the photo, click on the fairy icon at the bottom left to choose image decorations.

■Done? Now click on the arrow at the top right. Send to one person or upload it as a story for all your friends.

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