Social Media and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) in Marketing

Feb 4, 2022 — Markerly Editorial Team, 3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marketers have long harnessed consumer FOMO (fear of missing out) to motivate people to purchase products and services. However, with the help of today’s powerful digital marketing tools and social media platforms, digital marketing teams have learned to take FOMO to the next level. 

What Exactly Is FOMO?

The term FOMO or (Fear of Missing Out) is a term used to describe the anxiety we feel when we feel like we may be missing out on a social event, new product, or particular rewarding experience. Marketers use this feeling to persuade us as customers to purchase specific products or services and help businesses increase their conversion rates and reduce their abandoned baskets.

When using good storytelling in marketing campaigns, you’re essentially selling a fairytale to the customer. Take a look at a perfume commercial – you often see a beautiful woman wearing expensive clothes, dining with a good-looking man, or conquering the world. With this imagery, the ad tells its viewers that you will feel like this woman by buying this perfume, and if you don’t, then tough luck, you’re missing out. 

FOMO is vital for marketing because it pushes people to make rash, emotional decisions. Instead of logically considering whether they need a particular item, people just buy it because they want to feel like the person in the commercial. And thanks to popular social media platforms, making customers experience FOMO is easier than ever.  

Social Media’s Role in Creating FOMO

According to leading psychologists, social media platforms make us more depressed, unhappy, and lonely. And that’s because they’re excellent at provoking the so-called “fear of missing out.” 

Think about what happens each time you open Instagram. You see photos and videos of your friends having fun, visiting exotic places, grinding at the gym, opening cool gifts, and having wild Friday nights. When you’re not watching your friends have a great time, you’re watching random influencers make millions of dollars, travel the world, and promote products that appear to amp up their already glamorous lifestyle. It feels like you’re watching them in real-time, which just adds to the illusion and experience of FOMO. Just 10 minutes of that content is enough to make you feel like a failure – why am I stuck in my desk job while everyone else is out there having the time of their lives?

Because of that, social media is excellent at distorting our perception of other people’s lives. It only shows us the “highlights” of someone else’s life – the fun times they’re having, the adventures they’re living out. However, you rarely see someone post a video of how they’re cleaning the dishes or doing laundry – all the things we do as a part of our daily routine. 

All this shows that even without getting marketing involved, social media, by its nature, provokes the feeling of missing out. So the question is, what happens when advertising methods get in the mix? 

Digital Marketing and FOMO 

As we already discussed, social media platforms make it even easier for marketers to create fear of missing out. Thanks to fantastic imagery, product videos, and attractive models, creating an unrealistic vision of what a specific product or service might bring into someone’s life is easy.

Consider the gym equipment and athletic wear ads you see at the beginning of January. They’re all promoting you a new version of yourself that looks like a professional athlete, and they’re selling you the idea that you will end up looking like them. And if brands want to amplify the level of FOMO their user base experiences, they use influencers to promote their products or services. Why?

Well, because influencers are ordinary people like us. It’s hard to imagine you will look like a Victoria’s Secret model or a famous singer, but why not look like that fitness influencer who was a cashier at a Walmart until recently. That idea that the new version and improved version of ourselves is so easy to reach is what helps brands sell you a ton of unnecessary products. And it’s the reason why most people I know are suddenly all about their fitness regimen come January 10th. 

Should You Use FOMO for Your Social Media Advertising? 

The short answer is yes, but the longer one is – yes, but to a certain point. While you still want to sell your products to enrich your customer’s life, you also want to remain relatable. Your ads shouldn’t promise the impossible, like exotic destinations and expensive fun. They should also incorporate everyday activities that might be more enjoyable thanks to your products or services. Basically, be sure to use FOMO for your marketing purposes only when it is necessary, and be mindful of your online community’s mental health.

Final Thoughts 

FOMO is a great way to provoke people to buy products and services. However, using it too much during advertising efforts may make your brand feel less relatable and more like a company that’s just doing everything possible to earn revenue. Remember, if you’re trying to employ FOMO in your future digital marketing plans, you’ll need to blend FOMO with reliability to ensure your customers remain loyal and happy with your services.

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