The rise of smartphones and social media has heightened the urgency small business have sought to create in their customers with advertising. Because Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat offer access to posts about exciting events, trips, and products, we’re constantly exposed to experiences many of us wish we were enjoying, and worry we might miss out on.

That anxiety has become known as the fear of missing out, or FOMO, a term for the paranoia some feel about being left out of an experience — whether it’s an exclusive party, the chance to be the first to own a new smartphone, or a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Millennials are especially susceptible to FOMO.

With millennials now being the largest generation and with their purchasing power ever increasing, channeling FOMO has become an important tool for small businesses. It happens also to be one they’re well positioned to use — notably in social media.

Why? Because FOMO is most effective when companies know their customers and have relationships with them. With their more manageable customer bases, small businesses have better means to know (and target) their customers with great FOMO. Here are a few ways you can use this fear to your business’s advantage.

Use Your Customers’ Curiosity

Curiosity inspires anticipation, which inspires a fear of missing out, that will help ensure customers will follow any updates (and spend their money) to avoid being left out of the loop.

The Wales-based X Music Festival, for example, channeled this well by not simply releasing a list of its performers, but also using incomplete images of them. Then, limited VIP tickets were offered to those who guessed who the artists were. Small businesses can easily create similar FOMO curiosity around reveals of their products, upcoming sales, or special events that will drive awareness and then purchases.

Emphasize the Scarcity

Tell customers you’re only offering so much stock of a product, or seats at an event, and you’re just about guaranteed to inspire FOMO.

For example, an email marketing company, GetResponse, had a 40% off promotion for new accounts and introduced a fear of missing out angle: It only made a specific number of accounts available at the discounted price. Then it updated customers on how few accounts were left. Something like that can easily turn a fence-sitter into a “Buy Now” button click.

Promote Social Sharing

Ever noticed how industry conferences will create hashtags for panels and then live tweet the discussions or ask others to do so? That’s not just about giving information access to those who couldn’t come to the conference. It’s about making them regret missing it by showing the value of the event through social sharing.

This principle can easily be applied to a small business — and not only for events. For example, if customers love your product, encourage them to share images of themselves enjoying it, and their followers will start feeling a FOMO that can lead them right to you.

Learn More Ways to Retain Your Customers

If you want to know more about other ways to create devoted customers, be sure to check out Keep Customers Coming Back for More. It’s a free eBook we’ve put together that will inspire happy customers and help boost your profitability.

What will you learn with our guide?

  • How to use market research to get to know your customers better and understand what will earn their loyalty
  • Which customer service approaches are best to make your customers happy enough to return
  • How to work social proof into your business, so customers know you’re the real deal