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Operation FOMO: Three Ways to Turn Customer Envy Into Engagement

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Have you ever found yourself on Facebook, looking through photos of faraway places and charming status updates, only to want to shut down your browser with envy? It seems, in such moments, that you're stuck at home scrolling through social media while everyone else is having the time of their lives.

The FOMO Phenomenon

It's not that everyone else's life is better than yours, it's that you've become a victim of FOMO—the fear of missing out.

Coined in 1996 by Dan Herman (is anyone surprised that he's a marketing guy?), "FOMO" describes the psychological stress induced when one feels excluded from something enjoyable that others are experiencing.

Want to know where that definition came from? As of April 2016, FOMO is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and it's here to stay.


FOMO causes you to compare how much you're missing to a reference group that is now larger than ever, thanks to social media. Essentially, it's why your next-door neighbor feels the need to check in to every restaurant she's ever been to and why you can't pull up Instagram without seeing everyone else's travel experiences.

Missing out is, unfortunately, inevitable. You have dozens of attractive options open to you, but you can choose only one way to spend any minute.

Don't Miss Out on FOMO

FOMO is the sort of psychological behavior that makes marketers salivate. And, in the digital marketing age, virtually everyone is subject to it.

More than half of social media users say they're constantly afraid of missing something, whether it's an event, news, or an important status update. FOMO, in short, leads social users to keep an eagle eye on their networks.

FOMO also causes people to take steps to ensure they don't miss out next time, whether it's an upcoming party, trip, or brand event; anticipation of a coming event makes people want to be a part of it.

For marketers, there's a decidedly fine line between trying to induce anxiety in consumers and attempting to keep your brand top of mind, but you'd be remiss to ignore FOMO when it can so profoundly affect customer engagement.

Here's how to use FOMO to build hype around your brand's next event without creating customer resentment.

1. Broadcast the show on social

Technology enables us to be in places we physically aren't. Use livestreaming platforms, such as Periscope and Facebook Live, to give a view of your event to customers who can't attend, encouraging them to take part next time. Both tools offer immense room for creativity, and they're also easy ways to build your brand's Facebook and Twitter followings.

Here's an example. In the spring, we cohosted a press preview of Organic Valley's Half & Half pop-up shop. To build anticipation, we commissioned a renowned foodie and lifestyle blogger, Sweet Paul, to develop two recipes with the product, and we broadcast a demo via Facebook Live. Sweet Paul also did a live interview with one of Organic Valley's farmers and alerted consumers about an upcoming pop-up in New York City.

The broadcast not only brought the event to nearly 6,000 live viewers but also gave them a peek into a part of the brand they'd never seen before.

2. Get exclusive

Consumers love nothing more than being on the inside of an exclusive event. And by asking consumers to engage with your brand in return for gaining access to an exclusive event, you'll have already won. The event itself, which attendees are sure to share with envious friends on social, is just icing on the cake.

To this day, nobody has done it better than Bud Light. As part of its "Up For Whatever" campaign, the beer brand hosted a video contest that required participants to explain why they should be chosen for the pop-up party. Just 1,000 entrants were lucky enough to be flown in for the weekend of sponsored "whatever."

The stunt was a marketing gold mine for Bud Light, resulting in 37,000 pieces of content and 600 million impressions—60% more than the average Super Bowl ad. Thanks to FOMO and Bud Light's savvy marketing, "Up For Whatever" became one for the record books.

3. Send influencers to the party

Event marketing and influencer marketing are complementary. To properly balance inducing FOMO and including customers who can't attend, send influencers—anyone from hyperlocal bloggers up to nationally renowned influencers, depending on your budget—to cover your event.

Social coverage, complete with photos and personal-experience recaps, provides just enough information for those who couldn't make it while also leaving them craving more and awaiting the next opportunity.

We recently worked with Pepsi and Hersheypark on a campaign for the theme park's opening. To bring the debut to a wider audience, we sent a small group of bloggers and their families to document their experiences.

The influencers' content reached more than 600,000 people just via shares on Twitter and Instagram. As for drumming up FOMO, the response was overwhelming. Hundreds of commenters on the social platforms expressed envy and desire to bring their own families to Hersheypark.

* * *

No matter your audience, FOMO can work marketing magic. But be sure to use it responsibly: Too much FOMO can turn off customers who feel excluded; too little can result in lackluster event engagement.


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Jeff Snyder is the chief inspiration officer and founder of Inspira Marketing, an experiential marketing agency based in Norwalk, Connecticut.

LinkedIn: Jeff Snyder

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