The Fear of Missing Out In the Digital Age: Harnessing the Power of FOMO Through Online Contests

Examples, Ideas, Tips

There are so many aspects of psychology to explore in marketing, but FOMO (fear of missing out) has to be one of the most powerful. Learning what drives FOMO and why its pull continues to be so strong with online users is helping for businesses looking to get more engagement and traffic to their website and through social media.

Knowing how FOMO works and why it’s so persuasive through online mediums can help us drive better, more popular, online contests and giveaways. In this post, we’ll specifically look at how contests can appeal to a user’s sense of FOMO (as it gives them something they didn’t have before or may not be able to get otherwise) and showcase real examples of enticing contests that had great outcomes.

What is FOMO?

FOMO is an acronym that Boston Magazine claims was created by a Harvard Business School MBA student in 2004. The fear of missing out is essentially the feeling that you aren’t a part of something, such as a conversation or event. Whether it’s a party you can’t go to (or you weren’t invited to) or a trip that you can’t afford to take, people are feeling more and more pressure to match up to others (sometimes called “keeping up with the Joneses), causing exhaustion and burnout.

FOMO pressures us to do something instead of not, just to make sure we don’t miss out on anything. FOMO has always existed throughout history. As new innovations pushed the bounds of what we thought was possible, FOMO has been there to push people to save up and spend money to try new things, such as trains, cell phones, and home computers.

And in today’s digital world, the pressure to compare ourselves to others is more persuasive than ever.

How Does FOMO Feed Into Social Media?

Because social media allows us to see what our friends, family members, and colleagues are doing, it becomes a natural comparison game to see how our lives compare to the people we know (and some we just admire from afar, like movie stars and famous athletes).

As The Washington Post states, what people post online is usually only a tiny, positive sliver of their actual lives as a whole. But this distorted picture continues to feed our obsession with matching up to our network and celebrities. We want to take the same trips or use the same makeup as people we look up to. This pull has a huge impact on travel, leisure, and product sales. For instance, entrepreneur and influencer Kim Kardashian’s new line of KKW fragrances were offered only online (so consumers couldn’t even smell it beforehand unless they visited a boutique in LA that carried it) and it still sold out online in six days, netting an estimated $14 million. Many people look up to celebrities and other online influencers like Kim Kardashian, thus making any products or experiences they try irresistible to others who want her lifestyle.

“For instance, entrepreneur and influencer Kim Kardashian’s new line of KKW fragrances were offered only online (so consumers couldn’t even smell it beforehand unless they visited a boutique in LA that carried it) and it still sold out online in six days, netting an estimated $14 million.”

Even if we aren’t comparing ourselves to celebrities or popular online bloggers, we are still comparing ourselves to our social network. If a colleague gets the newest iPhone or a college friend takes a trip to Greece, many people suddenly get a surge of curiosity and want to do the same. This feeling, that makes FOMO so powerful, is something that businesses can leverage online, turning promotions into something fun and intoxicating that will give users a slice of something they don’t have.

Leveraging The Power of FOMO With Contests

By creating compelling contests that offer prizes and experiences that users might not be able to get otherwise, users have little resistance in entering a contest, thus giving the business their information. This information can then be used to share future promotions, content, and exclusive offers to entrants via email marketing.

Often, contests are cheaper for businesses than extensive advertising or buying contact lists (which often has a lower conversion rate). Users get prizes they likely wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and companies get more customers on their email list to try and build a long-standing relationship with: it’s a win-win.

FOMO Contests and Giveaway Ideas

A type of contest that does really well is once-in-a-lifetime experiences that people aren’t able to get anywhere else. If the giveaway grants the user exclusive backstage passes to their favorite talk show, gives them a private dinner with a chef that doesn’t normally offer private dining, or lets them meet someone not normally accessible by the general public, there’s a good chance the contest is going to be a lot more popular.

Striking a balance between something that is unique and something that actually piques users’ interest as something they want to experience or have is the sweet spot for many types of contests.

Technology Giveaways

Another giveaway type that continues to do well are those that contain Apple products, as they are popular with celebrities and tech influencers alike, but can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Apple products are easily accessible as well, so if you are having a hard time coming up with something more unique, try using a technology product or bundle giveaway. Amazon Fire tablets, Google Home devices, new Samsung smartphones, and other popular technology could also make a great giveaway. Users like getting the latest technology, especially if they have been wanting to upgrade for a while.

Bundle Giveaways

In addition to offering prizes that someone may not be able to afford on their own, the lure of making users’ lives better ties FOMO into a daydream of an easier life. Some of the most popular giveaways offer a huge cache of products, such as a complete vacation (which includes spending money, hotel, and airfare), or a total office remodel that lets winners choose their own new desk, computer, monitor, and printer.

To make your giveaway “bigger and better” think about how you can bundle prizes together to make it more impressive. This doesn’t have to always equal thousands of dollars– even an office supply or stationery bundle is more appealing to potential entrants than a pack of pens or a single notebook.

In addition, bundle giveaway entrants not only get a chance at a bigger prize, but you can also use this opportunity to enroll them in an email list or reward/loyalty program. This can help them get rewards for continued purchases with your business. This long-term reward program can help build loyalty and trust between these target customers and the company. This can be done with any giveaway; just make sure it is clear what they are opting into.

Contests can give users a glimpse into how to make their lives a little more like their favorite influencers or a lot easier with items they need to work or take care of their family. By offering a contest that feeds into what your target customers may want and need, you can give them something unique that isn’t always feasible otherwise. Consider leaning into FOMO by offering giveaways through social media, making entries easy to enter and to share.

To learn more about how to run a contest on Woobox, visit our Sweepstakes, Coupons, and Instant Wins campaign page.

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