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Are Your Members Driven By the Fear of Missing Out?

Written by Molly Talbert | on October 20, 2015 at 11:00 AM

I can’t remember the last time I changed my Facebook status or uploaded a picture – it’s definitely been over a year. Yet, every single day (multiple times a day) I log on. Occasionally I contribute to groups I’m in, but usually I just peruse my newsfeed, peeking in on everyone’s lives. Sometimes I wonder why I keep going back to Facebook, but it’s a tough habit to kick and whenever there’s the hint of curiosity, I’m back.

The other day, while passively checking in on old colleagues and trending topics, it came to me – I have a classic case of FOMO. I keep going back because I’m scared to miss out on something important.

You may think that fear of missing out (FOMO) is just for Millennials (like me) and the upcoming Generation Z as they tweet, Snap Chat and Facebook their days away (except for Gen Z – apparently they’re over Facebook), but it’s also effecting your community.

FOMO is a longstanding social convention that can motivate anyone, regardless of age. And a certain amount of FOMO is important for growing your community and sustaining momentum – it brings people on board and keeps them checking in.

What is FOMO?

Although the term FOMO is a product of digital age slang, the actual FOMO feeling has been around for ages. Remember high school on a Friday night, when you were stuck at home but knew your friends were out and having fun without you? That’s FOMO.

Chances are you’ve experienced FOMO and know it’s not ideal or comfortable. Why would you want to put that on your members? Not all FOMO needs to feel that way (i.e. as devastating as it probably did in high school). In fact, a small and healthy amount of FOMO can be a good motivator to build momentum within your community.

How does FOMO fit into community management?

There are two parts to positive FOMO effects for your community:

1. Create a certain amount of FOMO to bring people in.

The possibility of exclusion can motivate people to join the community and regularly check in. Highlight interesting conversations and upcoming events (live or virtual) happening within your community, through newsletters, social channels or your website. Show people a glimpse of the resources, networking and learning opportunities provided exclusively through the community. There are plenty of reasons your community members (or prospects who haven’t joined yet) should feel like they’re missing out; you’re doing them a favor by highlighting easy and immediate community benefits. Once they have a twinge of FOMO, they’ll be more compelled to sign up or be active.

2. FOMO means your community has attained mass and momentum.

This kind of FOMO isn’t something you have control over – people just keep joining and evangelizing the community, therefore FOMO develops within their peer groups. That’s what you want! You want members telling others they’re missing out by not being part of the community. The FOMO-inducing chatter proves to others that the community has high potential as a resource and reaffirms value in the community for current members.


These tactics don’t just bring new people into your community – they remind and prompt current members to check in and participate. Just because you get someone signed up doesn’t mean they’ll become a promoter or keep checking in. If there is enough activity – and you do a good job of highlighting top content – then members will keep going back to make sure they don’t miss out on an important opportunity.

Even though FOMO can certainly be associated with panic-inducing scenes like this, it doesn’t have to be that way for your community. That level of FOMO isn’t productive.

What you do want, however, is for people to feel like they’re missing out on a huge benefit if they’re not part of your community or participating on some level – because they are missing out. Your community is a huge resource for members, including discussions, networking and learning opportunities. And the FOMO cure is easy! All they have to do is sign up and check in, and they’ll stay updated and spread the word.

Topics: Engagement

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