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  • Tanushree Vaish

Fear Of Missing Out On Social Media

The term FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out was originally coined by author Patrick J. McGinnis in 1996. It was famously popularized in 2004 in The Harbus, the magazine of Harvard Business School. The term vaguely means a state of anxiety aroused by missing out on events happening elsewhere. FOMO is a term now used mainly in social media to mean someone desperately trying to fit into the trends and events of social platforms.

The growth of social media and its effect on industries and personal lives have been tremendous, the COVID 19 pandemic has only exacerbated this. Social media is now an integral part of business. Trends, activity, following, and online social media presence are big factors on which the success of brands depends. You must have seen how Instagram business profiles take on new challenges, Facebook lives are more frequent and Twitter profiles reshare more and more content to keep their followers interested. Instagram reels or TikTok videos have become so common that you must have seen posts on your feed, talking about how some users are tired of only hearing the one song segment, whenever they open these platforms.

FOMO marketing is greatly used by social media marketers to instil a sense of missing out in consumers to make them take action. FOMO has driven various strategies in marketing to help brands tap onto the FOMO feeling and effectively change user behavior for their benefit. Often brands use the hashtag #FOMO to initiate a trend to bear their strategies.

Psychologists say that the fear of missing out is an old—actually an ancient—fear, whereby not being able to relate to a new stimulus often triggers a sense of inadequacy or anxiety. Being up to date with whatever is going on, has been an age-old requirement to maintain any sort of social capital, and this has only increased manifolds with the rise in the usage of social media across the world. FOMO is integrally hotwired into our brains in such a way that we see missing out on things as a threat to ourselves. The need to know what is happening around us, partaking in activities like others is a social need for us as humans.

FOMO In Social Media Marketing

FOMO as a psychological phenomenon has been derivatively used by social media marketers to their benefit. Brands are diving in to explore FOMO among new trends in marketing. Brands use this phenomenon to stay relevant and impact customers. Research proves that FOMO can effectively influence consumer behaviour. Studies show that 60% of millennial consumers said they make a reactive purchase due to fear of missing out, most often within 24 hours, and is triggered mainly by content related to trips, parties or events, experience and food. This just goes on to show how purchases and decision-making can be influenced by FOMO and how social media marketers can use this for their benefit.

However, there are obvious pitfalls to this phenomenon. For one thing, fear of missing out is not always easy to deal with. Yes, we have seen the rise of the usage of social media, but along with that, we have also become familiar with the term social media detox or the #unplug, where users are seen taking vacations, from social media, after having checked the platforms with a near-obsessive dedication. While FOMO does, in fact, control a lot of how people portray themselves on social media, it has still not been able to come in the way of an attempt at good mental health.

It also is in fairly poor taste for brands to engage in activity that will trigger a fear of missing out, as it is to engage in that sort of behaviour themselves. This will be easier, if explained with an example. Our company provides marketing solutions to upcoming brands and businesses. The company provides marketing strategies for social media, by building social media algorithms, best suited to a particular brand or business today. Now, instead of content related to our services, if our Instagram page starts making dance videos to the most popular real songs, or hopping onto the lockdown trends, it would actually drive away users who might have been on the platform looking for the service that our brand provides. So while Fear Of Missing Out can definitely be used effectively to drive social media marketing strategy. It does not always. It is not always the best driver or controller of action taken on social media.

The rise of the hashtag culture has however made it a little difficult to ignore trends altogether. These hashtags, now, drive engagement on various social media platforms. And thus, it is sometimes necessary to conform to what is trending and make use of the visibility that these hashtags provide. However, while doing so, one must keep in mind the kind of service or product that the brand or business is trying to promote.

There's are ways to use this psychology to one's marketing benefits, but it has to be well thought out and especially well-executed, in order for it to be taken seriously.

Ways To Use FOMO Effectively In Social Media Marketing

1. Offering Exclusive Deals

Creating exclusive offers that will only benefit regular followers of the brand is a great way to keep people following your brand religiously. This is actually a way to simply reward your consumers for paying attention to your brand updates. This privacy of the reward will make consumers feel closer to your brand whilst others will experience FOMO for not following you. This way, your fans will continue to follow and others will try to follow you more just to partake in these rewards.

Announcing new deals and discounts on your social media is a great way to attract more consumers. Many businesses offer a first-come-first-serve basis product to limited attendees to stir a craze in their business. Other characteristics can also be offered to attract attention. Such as, offering a meal with a celebrity or free tickets to a conference can turn out to be a huge buzz in the right industry.

2. Recognizing User Effort

Recognizing your true followers is a big part of this system. Appreciating consumers which support you, share your posts, and are actively involved in your brand can instil a buzz amongst those who are not. Publicly thanking specific followers for their dedication or posting about them to appreciate their support is a great way to use FOMO marketing. Newsletters, special gifts/offers, conferences, and other offers of appreciation are good methods to attract more followers. Explain why they are special, what they did differently, and share their stories and posts. It is important to let your consumers know that they too will be recognized in the future if they interact positively with your brand.

The best way to showcase your fans is to show how they have benefitted from your product or service. That way you can show a review of a customer, deliver content based on your product and simultaneously trigger a sense of FOMO amongst viewers.

3. Establishing Premium Groups For Customers

This is one of the smartest ways to utilize FOMO marketing strategies. Making groups for customers on the basis of their interaction and effort can effectively work for you as they will then act as missionaries for your brand. These consumers can endorse your brand proactively for you. In return, you can offer them premium content, early access, and better deals.

Creating customer groups who advertise your brand in this way can boost your engagement to another level. Other members will soon feel the need to be added to these groups and will actively participate in your brand activities as well. Members can get early access to content, have discounts on products, and even be featured in live events, blogs and posts. This encouragement to partake in your brand’s events will eventually draw more audience to join whilst maintaining engagement with your loyal followers.


The dark side of social media usage has brought upon us the exploration of FOMO or fear of missing out. Complex interrelations of this phenomenon are used in daily posts and blogs of social media marketers to upscale their businesses. Creating a buzz that hinders logic has the potential to attract attention to a brand and make consumers more attentive towards social media updates. Although the downsides and collateral damage of these strategies are not much talked about, they exist in the dark parts of social media marketing. Using FOMO, brands have grown to attract new crowds making them partake in various trends and using hashtags to make their content relevant. This chain of counter-strategies has led to a position where a certain dance routine or music or meme has great potential to change the way a brand is perceived. While social media envy initiates this chain of events to expand the reach of businesses, it also negatively affects us to keep us bound to our social media platforms waiting for the next post or story from our beloved brand.

Regardless of how brands choose to market themselves, FOMO strategies are basically used to stay relevant on social media platforms. In a position, where your brand needs to offer valuable content, FOMO strategies can effectively help customers as well as instil a feeling of being left out. It is upon us, as users, to understand how to limit ourselves to social media trends and actively participate in events of our choice.


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