Social Influence and the Fear of Missing Out
Now combine this with one of our most basic conditions as humans, otherwise known as the “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO, and we have a fine formula to amplify AND activate action, anxiety, purchase, jealousy and demand. Truly a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly.
As a brand marketer, harnessing, addressing then inciting “positive” reactions to FOMO may seem an insurmountable task, maybe even “untouchable.” FOMO doesn’t have to be the rabid elephant in the room. After all, social media is what we make it. Whether we as consumers and marketers are aware of it, we all participate in the FOMO machine by participating in social media (the carbon of digital influence and digitally induced FOMO).
According to the State of Social Media study, released by Harris Interactive and MyLife, 62% of adults who are currently a member of more than one social networking site, say they keep an eye on their social networks because they don’t want to miss something (“Fear of missing out: FOMO”).
Growing up I danced with my friends at my local dance school 3-5 days a week and worked diligently to develop the skill set and technique necessary to progress to the “next level” (set within the confines of the studio where I took classes). It was not until I began attending dance competitions that I became aware of the work that other schools in other towns were producing. Time and again I’d see dancers with more graceful leaps, refined, articulate lines and a highly developed overall command of the stage. This was one of the first instances I can remember FOMO as a key motivator.
Now, if we think of the access to content that today’s dancers have via the internet; more importantly that this content is shared/circulated and consumed via a constant connection to peers and influencers; it’s no wonder (and I can say this with confidence) that the overall skill level and knowledge base of young dancers has dramatically progressed since the proliferation of social media.
What does this mean for brands? How can influencers be activated to incite positive FOMO? I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think some might agree: Content is Key!
Referring to my offline dance related example above, it was not until I saw the work the other dancers were doing that I made the decision to work in a different direction toward a level that I had not been aware of previously. By arming hyper targeted consumers with the means to create and circulate valuable content to their networks, brands can activate influencers to create a positive FOMO effect. Give a consumer flat, dry product information/facts, they are going to filter it through the same consideration process they’ve become so immune to in other media.
Give your target consumer something to work with (a recipe, a challenge, a riddle, a project, an idea) and you lay the groundwork for a more communal and effective reach, one that leverages the power of influence and the positive qualities of FOMO. I may not “fear” missing out on those frozen hash browns, but when my friends post photos of their completed holiday breakfast casseroles, I’m going to feel the appeal. In this case, and in speaking to the potential positive outcomes of FOMO, I would venture to refer to this phenomena as: the “Feeling of Missing Out”, fear is a feeling, but when we talk about how our communities influence our actions, it doesn’t always have to be scary.
“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
― Maya Angelou