Disrupting Generation #FOMO

Social media and increased connectivity have added to the volume of available information, which leads to the fear of missing out. What does it mean for marketing?

Disrupting Generation #FOMO

These days it feels like there is so much we should be doing. If it’s not the latest Netflix series, or the new Ai Weiwei exhibition, then it’s that vintage sale, or a spot of meditation. This is giving rise to the global phenomenon of FOMO (fear of missing out).

FOMO is the anxiety that comes when an exciting or interesting event may be happening elsewhere and is often prompted by posts seen on social media. It’s a well-documented feeling, but in what ways can FOMO change digital strategy?

Let’s look, first of all, at what is causing FOMO. Mostly, it comes from within ourselves. That’s not because our friends and colleagues aren’t putting pressure on us, but because, more than ever before, we assess how happy we are by how powerfully we project our (exciting) lives via social media.

Social media and increased connectivity have added to the number of things we are aware of, whether that is something to read, watch, do, and ultimately, talk about. This is where FOMO gets its power. Increasingly, we find ourselves doing things not because we are worried about missing out on them in themselves, but because we fear missing out on talking about it.

FOMO thrives because of social media. By 2020, the number of connected devices is expected to rise to 26 billion. On social media people’s lives look deliberate, planned, and fulfilled. We forget to see social media as a filtered version of people’s lives (which it is), and we go on to filter our own lives.

This isn’t a new idea but what is new is thinking about the implications of FOMO on the behaviours of social media users and how this might impact on strategy. Here are some ways in which FOMO can shape digital strategy:

1. It’s All About Time And Space

FOMO comes with time limits. It’s about discussion within a certain time frame. If you have never seen “Breaking Bad,” you could start watching now and catch up, but the show finished in 2013, so you’ve probably already missed 98% of the chance to contribute to the social media chat about it.

FOMO would be powerless without time: from the time a particular trend becomes trendy enough to induce FOMO, to the ticking clock that is the online chat-time. Who is still tweeting about such and such episode of “Breaking Bad”? Not many.

So getting the message out at the right time is key. More than ever before—especially in the age of social media—consumers are making time decisions, weighing up what things to buy, watch, eat, or read based on the digital communities to which they belong. And those communities don’t just exist as linear, rigid groups on a given platform. The Twittersphere is as much about time as it is about space—the when as much as the where, or the who. Timing is everything.

2. Quantity And Regularity

The sheer mass of new information and knowledge presented to us every time we check our news feeds can be overwhelming, and it is precisely this feeling of drowning in new opportunities that powers FOMO. Nonetheless, in such a loud world, brands have to be heard to survive. And they have to have personality and be recognisable. What are the values and interests you share with your users? In such a world, the more you talk, the more chance you have of influencing consumers. So speak regularly, in your voice, about the things that matter to your audience. Join trends, be part of discussions, and consumers will listen to what you have to say.

3. Experience Rules

In the realm of social media, the experience economy trumps stuff. According to Eventbrite’s study, Millennials alone spend close to £429 million each month on attending live events! Nearly three in four (73%) of the respondents agreed that FOMO often drives the need to seek out new activities and experiences. Having something isn’t enough on social media: we experience the having of it. If a follower has approved you, you want them to want the experience of your brand. They’re not necessarily following you to be sold to. It isn’t that crude. They follow you to be part of your experiences and your brand. Thinking about the experience you provide, rather than the stuff you sell, will allow you to understand where the value is for audiences.

4. Inspiration And Discovery

Give value to people by showing them a plan. Uncover and discover for people, so that you can be the answer. Help people feel like they’re discovering and experiencing, and take them one step further away from FOMO. Make it easy for customers to be surprised and be inspired. The rewards are that customers will be more engaged and more likely to share with their peers, arousing FOMO.

5. FOMO A No-No?

FOMO has a sad side. It speaks to quarter-life crises, identity anxieties, and the ways in which social media can be an alienating experience for many. But what’s great is that we can see strategies that are combatting the worst of FOMO while at the same time bringing people closer to brands. The likes of adult colouring books, tech-free days out, and retreats are reassuring us that the world won’t stop if we don’t spend some time online. Recently, we have seen social media-inspired examples of behaviours that challenge FOMO. In January, a puddle in Newcastle went viral. This is a great instance of the digital world pointing and laughing at something mundane, saying: “Look, this random bit of nothing can be fun, too.” Marketers need to realise that these devices can unpick the stress of FOMO and remind people that having fun is having fun, that even something so apparently everyday can be engaging. It shows that while sharing experiences has become a central part of people’s social lives, they don’t need to worry about what they’re missing. And neither do marketers.