Social Media & Traditional FOMO - The Fear Of Missing Out

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Marketers today tend to worry more about algorithms than they do human psychology. While that will get you the traffic you want it won’t get you the engagement that you need to convert eyeballs into dollars. Psychology is playing a big part in any social media campaign your businesses is engaged in now even if you don’t realize it. Since knowing is half the battle let’s talk more about speaking to people as opposed to Googlebot.

A prime component of conversion is often called FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. Your visitors might not know if they want to buy your product or service as they may not understand it. What they do understand on an instinctual level is they don’t want to miss out on the next big thing. This works on new gadgets, services, cars, and even in Vegas where it is almost certain they are going to lose money.

Addiction issues aside, FOMO drives everyone to some degree regardless of how self-aware they are. For example, read the completely fictitious sentence below:

“With our new technique, we can drive more traffic to your site than ever before. For only $19.95 we will send you all the information you will need to make huge changes in your site or social media channel. We are only going to send this out to the first 500 applicants so click here now."

The above marketing statement only tells you one thing. Buy it before it’s gone. We don’t even tell you what you are getting other than a document with some increasing vague information about your marketing efforts. The entire piece is FOMO start to finish. And it would work. We could send this out and sell enough to make it worth it. One the first 500 were sold the document could be changed slightly and sold again. It’s shady but legal. Don’t worry we don’t engage in such things.

FOMO is a powerful tool and works across any vertical. Here are 3 ways to use FOMO almost anywhere.


Exclusive clubs are always more sought after than ones anyone can join. Why is that? Because membership means something. What that is may be ephemeral but even if it can’t be quantified people want to be members of exclusive groups. The more exclusive the better.

Remember the example above rewarding the first 500 customers? While not actually an exclusive club there will be a limited number of those that benefit and that draws in buyers. This is seen in “Limited Time Offers”, “First Time Buyers” or even in beta tests that will only allow a few members that will get exclusive content.

Exclusivity attracts buyers every time.

The Experience Is The Story

Some customers prefer experiences over services or products. The idea of the product or the experience of owning it is more important that the intrinsic value or functionality of the product itself. The only answer to why people choose to stand in line for hours to buy the latest iPhone as opposed to having it shipped to them is because they want to. Waiting in line is a part of the overall experience of buying and owning an iPhone and having it shipped to the home simply does not offer the same level of participation that going to the store with other like-minded people and making the purchase does.

This can make events like new product launches and sales much more important as they can create an experiential environment for customers to be a part of. Blizzard Entertainment did a great job with this when launching their game World of Warcraft. Gamestop and other outlets had a “Midnight Sale” where copies could be purchased. Customers showed up in costumes with swords and glowing staves. It looked like a convention when it was just a game being sold. The software was available for download the next day but customers wanted to stand in line with other players and experience the launch.

Great companies not only offer products and services that fulfill their customers. They also make the buying experience so much fun for their target audience that the experience is greater than the sum of its parts.

Manufacture Urgency

Urgency is how cars are sold. “Someone just came in today and said they would be back. Now is the time to buy”. Salesmen have been using this forever. If you add this to FOMO you have a situation where a customer must make a decision right now or they will never get this opportunity again.

This type of marketing can be seen in Flash Sales, Clearances, and single unit sales like a floor model TV that’s 80% off because someone put a donut on it. By its very nature urgency is time sensitive so to be used effectively as a marketing tool it must be manufactured.

A great example of this type of marketing can be seen on the QVC cable channel. They sell an eclectic array of products from jewelry, carpet, bikes, knives and almost anything else you can think of. When the product is offered the host says something along the lines of, “this deal is so good we will have to put a clock on it. Once these are gone they are gone for good.” Boom. Manufactured urgency. When the clock runs out on that deal I bet you they will still take your money, and it is also unlikely the warehouse they are shipping from will run out of Elkhorn double bladed hunting knives in the foreseeable future.

This example uses scarcity and urgency that feeds the FOMO in customers to compel a decision to buy on the spot.

The commonality in all of these above methods and examples is fear. No one wants to get left behind or miss out on the next big thing. Figure out how your product or service can fit into these ideas and you can use FOMO to grow your business today.