What is FOMO and How to Use it in Business

When I was in high school, I often found myself sitting in a corner looking at my classmates and thinking how cool they were! I was not one of them because I needed a little time to make friends. But that didn’t stop me from craving all the fun they used to have!

Now, after being stuck at home for almost a year, I can't help but have the same feeling of missing out on all the fun I could have had. I'm pretty sure we all have had such feelings at some point in our lives. It has a name - FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. 

Well, you have heard the term, right? If not, then sorry to say, you're a little behind the times! See how I just used FOMO on you for not knowing what I know? Didn't it make you feel more inclined towards the subject? Apart from being a psychological phenomenon, FOMO can also be a valuable marketing tactic that can profit your business heavily. 

So, today we will learn about what FOMO is and how to use it in business. Hence, without any further delay, let's get started.  

What is FOMO?

So, what is FOMO? The Fear of Missing Out or FOMO is a psychological phenomenon that humans can't help but respond to. It is triggered when you feel like you are losing out on unique opportunities. Thus, you feel anxious, regretful, and motivated to take action since you don't want to let such opportunities go.

FOMO is a familiar feeling that almost everyone has experienced, whether actively or passively. Let's face it, nobody likes to feel as if they've been left behind. For instance, you could feel FOMO inactively when you see our friends posting photos on Instagram of a party where you were not invited. 

FOMO is also common when we see something on flash sales online and want to buy that even though we don't need it. Can you describe how these offers make you feel? Don't you feel like you could miss out on an offer that would never come back? 

This very fear of missing out on something amazing is called FOMO. As you can visualize it now, it would be easier for you to understand how small businesses, marketers, and other people use FOMO as a marketing strategy. 

Before you ask, there is no proper way to deal with it. FOMO is entirely a natural psychological phenomenon that we all face at some point. With the advent of social media, it has only become even more intense. Now, as you read ahead, you'll find how to use FOMO in your business. But before that, let's get a brief history about it. 

When did FOMO Start?

FOMO is not something new. However, while it has been there forever, it didn't have a specific name. I personally found FOMO examples in many ancient books, including some Greek mythological stories. Well, it's nothing shocking because, as we said, it's natural. 

So, the history of FOMO dates back ages. Ancient people used to collect everything they could to live. They never wanted to miss out on a single opportunity for survival. 

Following the advent of social media, FOMO has become more noticeable with lots of studies going around. Undoubtedly, social media has stimulated the FOMO phenomenon in several ways. It creates a situation in which you compare your regular life to the highlights of others’ lives - what they want people to see. 

Dr. Dan Herman, a marketing strategist, first coined the term "fear of missing out" in a 1996 research paper. Since then, studies on this psychological issue have been continuing in almost every part of the world. FOMO has a significant impact on our mental health, which is what I will discuss hereafter. 

Dr. Dan Herman FOMO

How FOMO Affects Mental Health

The reason behind something trending is people's participation. Take an example of the games that often go viral. Why do you think most people play those games? Of course, they have outstanding graphics and exciting structures. But, more importantly, we play these games because others are also playing them. 

It gives you the urge to stay connected to what others are doing because otherwise, you may miss out on something worthwhile or essential. This FOMO or fear of missing out has a severe impact on people's minds. As you can see from my high school experience, I often felt that I was left out. 

It lowered my self-esteem, confidence and promoted mental problems like an inferiority complex, loneliness, mood swings, and anxiety. It negatively affected my academics too. 

However, social media has only intensified this idea. Seeing what your neighbors or peers are up to and what they're buying has become easier. It makes you worry that if you don't keep swiping up and down, you'll fall behind.

So, FOMO, although natural, is gradually intensifying owing to the increasing use of social media. How social media impacts this "fear of missing out" is my next point of discussion. 

Social Media Impact

There is a firm connection between social media and FOMO. Social media plays a significant role in most people's lives. In today's world, It's hard to find anyone who doesn't at least have an account on at least one social media platform, whether it's Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, or Snapchat.

But the internet, specifically social media, can be a double-edged sword. The main advantages of social media are easy to see. It allows us to meet new people and keeps us connected with old friends. It can be an excellent source for learning new things.

But, at the same time, psychologists have found more and more evidence about the potential shortcomings of social media and how it can sometimes affect our mental health and well-being. 

Millions of people publish billions of posts worldwide everyday. You yourself see at least a hundred each day. These posts are basically the highlights of other people's lives or promotion of some business. Regardless of what they are, most of them are pretty enough to make you feel lonely. 

For instance, when you see someone has bought a video game that you always wanted, you feel anxious. Or, seeing an offer like “50% off on headphones”, you think of making a purchase and worry about them going out of stock and making you regret losing out on the deal.

Thus, social media platforms affect our mental health by injecting FOMO in us. This is why businesses prefer using these platforms for promoting their brands and offers to get a wider audience. So, how do businesses use FOMO? 

How Businesses Use FOMO

So, what is FOMO marketing, and how do businesses use FOMO? FOMO marketing is a kind of marketing strategy where businesses attract the consumers' desire to grab every chance they get. The messaging in this process is previously framed. Using FOMO, you push the customers to make an impulse purchase today, rather than regretting the lack of action later.

FOMO marketing works because human beings are risk-averse. So, we basically avoid taking chances where we can lose money on a product that might not match up to our standards. However, this risk avoidance also works the other way around. 

It opens up the possibility of regret in the future. It can make you feel regret because you didn't grab the opportunity then. A small example might help you understand it better. Let's say that you want to purchase a television and have an idea of the features and the brand you prefer.

Now suddenly, you see an ad of the same model with a considerable discount on Facebook. It matches all your criteria perfectly. Now, even though you were not that keen on purchasing a TV, just by seeing this ad, you'll be forced to think about it. This is the exact feeling that FOMO marketing wants to induce in its audience. 

Now that you know how FOMO marketing works, let's see some practical examples of how to use FOMO for businesses. 

1. Advertising

Advertising is one of the most primary marketing strategies. You could advertise your products or services on televisions, online, or the streets - using posters and banners. So, what is FOMO advertising, and how can you use FOMO in advertising to promote your business? 

The job of FOMO is to induce the fear of missing out in your customers’ minds. Using FOMO in advertisements requires some creativity. In this process, you basically have to design a poster or create a video that portrays how valuable the product can be for the consumers. 

For example, you must have seen promos like "NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE DEAL- FLAT 20% OFF ON EVERYTHING." This is an example of FOMO sentences, where the advertiser has used an attention-grabbing tagline like "Never-Seen-Before Deal." It says that the deal has never been there before this, this is the first and probably the only opportunity for customers to grab. 

Now, to make it more intense, you can add some time limits to it. For example, set it as a 2-day offer or put a countdown on your website. The consumers have to purchase within that given time to avail the offer. 

Showing the items left in your stock is another example of FOMO advertising. If something gets sold out very quickly, it is perceived as high quality, and people tend to buy it. They don't want to miss out on what others are using. In this way, through the proper use of FOMO in advertisements, businesses are getting more consumers than ever. 

Below you can see ad example from Facebook.

advertising FOMO example

2. Social Media

FOMO is a natural phenomenon. So, you can use it on social media platforms naturally. If you can create a situation and make your audience feel the urge to act fast to get an opportunity or risk losing it, sales and conversion rates are sure to go up. 

The best way to do this is by targeting the right audience with the right offer. There are many ways to create a tempting offer with a fear of missing out (FOMO) factor. You can modify how you plan to offer a freebie, run promotions, or create contests. 

Everything - from your prize to the design and copy of your content on social media - can potentially impact people's desire to catch up. Let's say, for example, you are planning to sell your online business consultancy services to potential customers. By targeting the right people of a specific age group and profession on Facebook, you can get more leads.

Now, all you have to do is use catchy FOMO captions and mix them with attractive designs and a time limit. You can also provide some offers or gifts, such as "FREE TRIAL FOR 3 DAYS IF YOU SIGN UP BY TOMORROW NOON." Using such captions might trigger your audience who were already thinking about getting your services. 

Social media has a huge potential and can be used for any sort of business. However, I would always recommend you to be honest about your offers. If you are offering 30% off on something for a limited period, don't extend it further, or your customers may feel that they've been tricked. 

3. Email Marketing

Email marketing has a significant role in keeping your customers informed about your presence and offers. So, how do businesses use FOMO in email marketing? Emailing your prospects about a promotion that will only last for a short amount of time creates a sense of urgency. 

Businesses use several tactics to engage their customers with the fear of missing out. Flash sales, sending reminders, seasonal sales, and most importantly, setting a time limit are the FOMO tricks that marketers use. 

The goal is to inform and induce the fear that your audience might miss out on some never-again opportunity. For instance, flash sales are something people always look out for. When businesses offer something at a low price, customers tend to make a purchase or think about it even though they don't need the product. 

Now, when you mail them informing them about the flash sale and its time duration, they would feel the urge to check it out. Thus, FOMO in email marketing is a great way to gather an audience. 

By creating offers and contests, you can connect with them and convert them into potential buyers. Only, make sure that you don't create fake offers just to draw their attention. It might harm your reputation and decrease people’s participation over time. 

As you can understand all festive days happening every year like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas time and etc all use fear of missing out, which is time sensitive. 

Can You Use FOMO in Real Life?

FOMO, as I’ve said before, is a natural phenomenon that is hard to avoid. We all have this urge to have what others have. I remember that as a child, we didn't have cable in our home. So, when my friends used to talk about all the cool stuff they watched on television, I would try to avoid the conversation. That was probably my first encounter with FOMO.

In this context, I remember an incident that took place recently. One of my friends was planning to go on a date and asked me for a suggestion for a place. He wanted this to be more grand than romantic. When I asked him why, he said, "Because that's what everyone prefers!" Another example of dating FOMO.

dating FOMO

Thousands of people post about their seemingly perfect life on social media platforms everyday. While someone posts their fantastic MacBook images, someone else posts about their trip to Hawaii or eating at an exclusive restaurant. I find myself trying to "keep up" with people I don’t even know and people I've never engaged with in person.

It is like we are all a part of a circle. Your actions could also trigger FOMO in someone's mind. For instance, if you have done something 'cool' that others haven't, your posts on social media or your stories may trigger their fear of missing out. 

I remember my mother telling me to study hard or I'll fail to secure a good job in the future. It is probably one of the best FOMO examples in every teenager's life. We use FOMO, actively or inactively, in our everyday life. Our fear of missing out on everything perfect around us is an inevitable phenomenon. 

Wrapping up

FOMO in business might seem like manipulation, but it isn't, if you use it ethically. While taking advantage of someone's fear of missing out, you must remember to be honest about what you say. If you are offering people something, make sure you keep your promise. 

For instance, if you have set a time limit for an offer, don't extend it beyond that. It might lower your brand's reputation and decrease customer's responses in the future. Instead, show your customers the opportunities they’ve missed. 

You can also provide different opportunities to your audience. You could offer something unique for your email subscribers, while targeting your Instagram supporters with something else entirely.

Understanding how FOMO impacts mental health is necessary to be able to use it in marketing. Now that you know what FOMO is and how to use it in businesses, it would be easy for you to apply these methods and turn your audience into potential customers.

About Mantas J

Blogger, marketer, coffee lover,- currently now developing several online projects.

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