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3 Facebook Messenger tricks you'll love

Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of Operations, speaks about the Apple Watch and Facebook Messenger during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, September 9, 2015. (Reuters/Beck Diefenbach)

Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of Operations, speaks about the Apple Watch and Facebook Messenger during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, September 9, 2015. (Reuters/Beck Diefenbach)

Odds are your friends and family are already hanging out on Facebook, so it makes perfect sense to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with them. Like most things in our digital lives, there aren’t any manuals for using Messenger. Tech companies assume you’ll jump on the bandwagon and figure it out.

To help you go from novice to pro, here are three Facebook Messenger tricks you’re probably not using. (Note: Messenger does not work the same across all devices and operating systems. If you can’t locate something where I say it is, look around for a similar action. And be sure you have the latest version of the Messenger app on your iOS or Android device.)

1.  Make a group decision by taking a vote

How often have you texted back and forth among a group about where to meet for dinner, which day is better for a gathering, what time or activity is best, and more?

Facebook now lets you conduct polls in Messenger, so when you need to get a bunch of people to reach a decision, you can start a group conversation in Messenger and take a vote.

Tap Polls when composing a message, or tap More and select Poll. Compose the question along with possible answers and press Submit. Your poll will appear in the Messenger conversation, and people in the group will be asked to vote for their choice. The most popular answer wins. Problem solved.

When it comes time to pay for an activity, Messenger can help. Type a phrase like, “You owe me $25 for the split check,” and Messenger will take you to a payment page. Both parties need to have a debit card saved in Messenger. You enter this information in the More, and then Payments. Facebook is rolling out a change to this, and you may have it already. New chat bots look for certain things such as “IOU.” When it is detected, payment is requested and taken directly in the conversation feed.

2.  Send and receive secret messages

Encryption is an extremely secure way to protect your conversations from being heard or seen by anyone but you. It scrambles your conversation, so if hackers see gibberish if they intercept the data.

End-to-end encryption means the encryption extends from one end of the communication pathway to the other. There’s no point where hackers can tap in and steal an unencrypted version of the message.

Facebook Messenger’s end-to-end encryption feature is the same service Facebook uses in WhatsApp. Theoretically, this makes it impossible for hackers, the government, telecoms and even Facebook itself to read these conversations. Only the sender and recipient can see the messages, and only on one device of their choosing.

But to use Messenger’s end-to-end encryption feature, you first have to turn it on. It’s called “Secret Conversations.”

Once enabled, you can make your message disappear at a specific time or choose how long your message will last before it disappears. (But remember, nothing ever really disappears. Anyone can take a screenshot of your secret conversations.)

Open Messenger and tap the Me icon. Tap Secret Conversations. Here’s where the similarity ends on Apple and Android devices. Click here for the exact steps on how to send and receive secret messages, set timers and delete all your secret messages.

3.  Play games with friends

Instead of playing an online game alone, challenge a friend or family member to a game of chess, basketball or soccer. It’s fun!

For chess, choose the friend you'd like to challenge. Type "@fbchess play" to get started. At the bottom and top of the board, you'll see the letters A through H assigned to the grid. On the right- and left-hand side of the board, you'll see the numbers one through eight.

To move, combine the letters and numbers with a piece command. Typing “@fbchess Pe4,” for example, will move your Pawn to square E4. A list of more advanced commands, such as moving your Bishops and Knights, can be found by typing “@fbchess help.”

If basketball is more your game, send a friend the basketball emoji, then tap the emoji in the chat log to start the game. Swipe up to shoot the ball. If you get frustrated, watch this YouTube video that shows you how to win using a ruler. For a soccer game, send a friend the soccer ball emoji. Tap the ball to keep it in the air.

If you like these tips, I have four little-known Facebook secrets you should be using, too. Click here to learn how to erase your searches, see who is ignoring you and more.

From buying advice to digital life issues, be sure to listen or download the podcasts. Click here to find your local radio station. If you are looking for topics about everything digital that you can listen to on your phone, tablet or computer, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2016, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.