Algorithms change, and those trending growth hacks may do their job and then fall by the wayside. Marketing concepts that are built around how people function and think, however, have the potential to last through the years. Human psychology doesn’t change, so finding marketing tactics to address or evoke psychological responses can benefit your business for years to come. A great example of this is FOMO, or the fear of missing out, social media, and how to leverage it for your business.
In this post, we’re going to take a close look at the psychology of the fear of missing out and how marketers can leverage it to benefit their marketing campaigns.
“FOMO” stands for the “fear of missing out.” The alliteration is new, and it’s only recently gained a lot of attention thanks to its association with Millennials. While Millennials have thrust the FOMO principle into the forefront of society so much that it’s well-known, the psychology underlying the concept has been around for ages; it’s just been exacerbated by our over-connected, over-sharing social culture.
Essentially, this “fear of missing out” acts as a strong motivator for why people do what they do. Instead of thinking “I’d like to go to that conference this year and network and get the information,” some people will think “But what about all the people that might be there? What if this year, there’s an inside joke like last year and I’ll be out of the loop for six whole months. What if they have a really great speaker?” It becomes about fear, instead of a productive decision to move forward.
When I was a kid and used to give the excuse “but all my friends are doing it,” my mom would say “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do that, too?” Honestly, in this day and age, some people might answer yes, and they’ll make sure someone gets a picture of them doing it, too.
We’re just hearing about the fear of missing out now (it seems to coincide strongly with #YOLO (“you only live once”), but the psychology behind it is nothing new. When looking at psychological principles and behavioral economics, FOMO is rooted deep in loss aversion.
Loss aversion is exactly what it sounds like. People are motivated by their fear of losing something, so they’ll do what they can to avoid it. In some ways, this can be practical – it’s why many people willingly choose to purchase different types of insurance to protect themselves, their finances, and their assets. Since losses are at least perceived to be twice as impactful as gains in someone’s life, this can be a powerful motivating factor.
FOMO also has a lot to do with the need to fit in. Previously, when we lived in small communities we relied on for our protection, it was crucial that we fit into the group and didn’t risk extradition; our survival literally depended on it. Because this need is built into our genetics, even today feeling left out of the group can cause feelings of restlessness and anxiety because the amygdala – found in the brain and capable of detecting threats – registers this potential social isolation as a threat to our well-being. This actually causes psychological stress, and thus you’ve got the fear of missing out.
Now, we live in a world where we’re over-connected. Every time our friends go out to lunch, it looks like a grand adventure with the ten pictures they post about it. We don’t want to miss out on The Next Big Thing, whether that’s a product or an event.
The fear of missing out, social media, and your marketing tactics affect what people do, including what they purchase. Whether you want to drive event attendance or sales, the fear of missing out, social media, and carefully constructed postings can help you do it. Even more importantly, you can use FOMO ethically, and without legitimate fear mongering.
There’s several ways you can leverage the fear of missing out + social media to drive customer action. This includes:
FOMO is a relatively recently recognized social phenomenon, and while it’s more prevalent thanks to our constant use of social media, the psychology causing it is universal. If you’re able to leverage FOMO to get more sales, event attendance, and followers on social media, you will have harnessed a powerful force for your business.
What do you think? Have you ever used the fear of missing out + social media for your business? Has it ever driven you, or someone you know, to act? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!
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