Fear of missing out: How brands can take advantage

Khoros Staff

As you scroll through Instagram, you might see your brother shredding down a mountain in a foot of powder (#epicweekend, #perfectconditions), friends on a New York City rooftop during sunset with your favorite bottle of rose (#thisishowyousummer, #roseallday), and a melting ice cream cone with the beach in the background (#nomnom, #eeeeats)... You might also immediately feel a mix of jealousy and longing that can be summed up with “I want to be there.”

Does this ever happen to you? This is FOMO, “Fear of Missing Out,” and you are not alone. As psychologist Dr. John M. Grohol describes, “We are so connected with one another through our Twitter streams, Instagram updates, Foursquare check-ins, and through our Facebook and LinkedIn updates, that we can’t just be alone anymore. The fear of missing out (FOMO) — on something more fun, on a social date that might just happen on the spur of the moment — is so intense, even when we’ve decided to disconnect, we still connect just once more, just to make sure.” Studies by JWT Intelligence found that 83% of respondents (UK & USA) want to be in the know, and 77% of adult millennials and 70% of Gen Xers said they often think they can squeeze more than is really possible into their day.

So what does this all mean for brands? Using the following tactics, brands can capitalize on their target audience’s constant need to be in-the-know and fear of missing out. That said, as a brand, it’s important to be true to your mission, consistent in voice, and honest about what you are offering — your consumers are smart and if successful, they will reward your authenticity with loyalty (read our Social Media Pocket Guide for additional insight).

1. Create urgency

Like that ice cream melting in the warm summer heat, brands that are able to create urgency or scarcity can leverage customers’ fear of missing out and drive them to act. For example, on July 11, 2017 Amazon hosted thirty hours of flash sales across 13 countries on Amazon Prime Day. The retail giant set sales records this Prime Day, beating the previous year’s Prime Day with 60% sales growth. Limited quantities and the ticking sales clock effectively created both urgency and scarcity. In 2016, Spredfast (now Khoros) customer Patagonia decided to shake things up for Black Friday. Core to their mission to protect the environment, the company decided to donate 100% of sales (not just proceeds) to grassroots organizations that support the planet. They launched the #loveourplanet campaign, and customers rallied behind them, shattering their anticipated $2M in sales with $10M in the 24 hour period.

2. Leverage word of mouth

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, and 77% of consumers say they are more likely to buy a new product when they learn about it from friends or family. Brands can leverage this trend through user-generated content (UGC) campaigns. If you can both identify the content that is most relevant to your audience and figure out when to engage in the customer journey with different content, UGC can be incredibly powerful. It's equally important to create shareable moments for your customers – whether encouraging a hashtag, check-in, or tagging a location. This makes the UGC discoverable and shareable.

3. Understand your customer journey

"Social media software is both the creator and the cure of FOMO," explains Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr. She also explained that “FOMO is cyclical.” As individuals become more active and connected on social media, the customer journey changes for brands. Put another way, this increased activity has in turn increased the amount of touch points a brand has to connect with their audience. In the travel industry alone, customers interact with on average 19 pieces of social media content before making a purchase decision, and 97% of millennials will share trip photos during their travel. By truly understanding how your target audience interacts with content and what influences purchase decisions, brands can more effectively engage throughout the customer journey. Effectively increasing these connection points builds loyalty and encourages customers to naturally share their own customer stories. In effect, this word of mouth turns your customers into an army of brand ambassadors who feel like they are part of something exclusive and spread that FOMO to others.

Icelandair recently launched twenty flights throughout Europe all with layovers in Iceland. Launching the campaign #mystopover on Instagram, they sourced over 250,000 photos on Instagram which they repurposed as “travel inspiration and recommendations” in an attempt to turn a typical negative layover experience into a travel opportunity not to be missed. They were able to turn customers into advocates by giving pillows to all travelers with the very “Instagram-able” note, “It’s time to rest and dream of an Icelandair stopover. #mystopover.”

4. Feature experiences, not products

Experiences are timely and project urgency. A 2014 Eventbrite study determined that 78% of millennials stated they’d rather have a desirable experience over a desirable item, and 69% believe that attending events makes them feel more connected. Brands can use this perceived connection to their advantage by building campaigns around experiences. Equally important to garnering WOM, your customers don’t want to hawk your products — they want to share the experience or feeling your brand or campaign is projecting.

For example, Uber has rolled out #uberpuppy campaigns for celebratory events like holidays. With the click of a button on the Uber app, you can order puppies to your doorstep for a 12-hour window only. Uber has run these campaigns across the globe from Chicago to New Dehli to Romania to San Francisco. These puppy deliveries are limited in quantity and time — and who doesn’t want to pet puppies?

As people are more connected and more vocal on social media, brands have the ability to capitalize on their consumers' FOMO driving greater loyalty, generating word of mouth content, and leading to sales. Yet, it’s important to remember that while your consumers want to be in-the-know and part of exclusive opportunities, they expect both honesty and authenticity from those brands they choose to support.

Make the most of what you've learned about FOMO by reading our Social Media Pocket Guide and take advantage of this valuable knowledge.

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