A lot is happening in the world of messaging platforms. Recently, WhatsApp launched a new feature: Status. It allows you to post a series of photos or videos to a personal feed, visible to all of your contacts. The viewer sees each shot for a few seconds, one after another. After 24 hours, everything disappears.
Sounds familiar? That’s because Snapchat and Instagram already offer an almost identical feature.
Facebook takes on Snapchat
Meanwhile, Facebook is testing the same feature in its mobile app and Messenger. Since Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, the company is now pushing this new feature on four different platforms.
Why is Facebook doing this? Some have pointed to Snapchat’s IPO as the reason for this copycat behavior. Either way, it’s clear that this new storytelling format is here to stay. With that in mind, let’s explore how to get the most out of WhatsApp Status.
How to tell a story with WhatsApp Status updates
New features always offer opportunities for innovative uses. The great thing about Status is that your posts appear in sequence. That makes it a perfect tool for visual storytelling. We'll get you started.
Before we begin, let’s make one thing clear: WhatsApp Status is all about fun. Whatever it is you post, it doesn't have to be perfect. After all, it'll only be there for 24 hours. At worst, you’ll make a fool of yourself for a single day. And haven’t we all done that before? Exactly. Let’s go!
1. Get people hooked with a narrative arc
Most stories follow a traditional pattern to get you involved. Usually, things start by setting the stage: It's an ordinary day in Gotham…. Soon, the initial balance is disturbed, creating a tension that needs to be resolved: A little child discovers a timebomb in a subway station… Next, the protagonist must find a way to restore the original situation. Until that happens, we remain in suspense: Only five minutes until the bomb explodes! Will our hero be there in time? Ultimately, we reach the climax and the tension dissolves: Batman defuses the bomb, and the city is safe again!
You can apply the same pattern to your Status story. Take your viewers on a trip. Introduce them to a situation and then create tension by changing something that needs resolution. Build up suspense and work towards a climax.
Whatever your storyline, make sure the payoff is worth it. No one likes an underwhelming ending.
2. Turn life into a comic strip
Comic strips are perhaps the ultimate form of visual storytelling. They exist all over the world in a wide range of genres: adventure, humor, horror, science, philosophy, and so on. Marvel and DC supply the world with superheroes, Russia has its traditional lubki, and of course, there is the Japanese art of manga.
Graphic novels take up hundreds of pages, but newspaper comics only need a few frames to tell their story. The latter is the format most suitable to your WhatsApp Status. Challenge yourself to condense a story into three or four frames.
To make your life a little more graphic, why not use emojis to recreate a comic style? Go wild with text bubbles (?, ?️) and explosions, or go all the way with special effects apps like ComicBook. And for once, think inside the box.
3. Use the element of surprise
There's one big difference between a comic strip and a WhatsApp Status: in comics, you can see several frames in a single glance. With Status, each part of your story only plays after another. The benefit? You can use the element of surprise!
Who doesn't remember those old jump scare pranks? Someone sends you a link to a video with an optical illusion. You're intensely focusing on the center of the screen when all of a sudden, the screaming face of a child-monster pops up out of nowhere. It's terrible, but it works. You can use the same technique in your Status story. Get someone to concentrate and then scare the hell of out them. Evil? Maybe. Fun? Absolutely.
4. Embrace limitations like a superpower
Limitations make our creativity flourish. When you have all the options in the world, freedom can be paralyzing. But when we have constraints to work within, our inventiveness immediately fires up.
When making a WhatsApp Status story, create some restrictions for yourself. Tell a story using only sounds, or only emoji. Tell a story by filming short bits of different tv shows. Ask people strange questions and only show us their answers. By using restrictions, your possibilities become endless.
5. Go nuts
Here's a little secret: life has no rules. The same is true for storytelling. Sure, there are certain narrative tricks that work, but there are plenty of ways to tell a good story. So go nuts. Experiment. Do whatever comes to mind.
Why not capture fascinating strangers like the paparazzi would? Liveblog the barber cutting your hair. Show off the different stages of making an apple pie. Annotate your partner's dreams while they sleep. Anything is possible. Would a superhero care about rules? No. So be like Batman.
Business is about to get personal
For now, WhatsApp Status is all fun and games, but the future may hold more exciting opportunities. Last year, WhatsApp announced it’s slowly opening up its platform to businesses. The company is looking for ways to integrate meaningful interaction between businesses and their customers.
We believe there's potential in WhatsApp. As users become more comfortable with businesses entering the space of their personal communication, many new chances await. The rise of chatbots and conversational interfaces could revolutionize the customer service industry. Yes, things are about to get a whole lot more personal.
Interested in how conversational interfaces can improve the user experience of your digital products? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop by our office for a cup of coffee.