Webinar: Incase you missed my webinar on The ROI of Content Marketing last week be sure to check out the recorded version here.

Have you ever walked over to a crowd of strangers in the street, just to find out what they were all looking at? Or stayed out longer and later than you wanted to, just in case something exciting happened while you weren’t there?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is because of FOMO – also known as the Fear of Missing Out. It’s the fear that whatever’s happening in our life, we might be missing out on something “better” that may (or may not) be happening instead.

FOMO isn’t exactly a new phenomenon; Psychologies psychotherapy columnist Philippa Perry called it, “a modern take on the grass being greener on the other side.” However there’s no arguing that technology – namely, the internet and, even more specifically, social media, aren’t fueling it – especially in younger generations.


Unsurprisingly, it’s a pretty common affliction. A survey from MyLife.com found that 56% of social media users “are afraid of missing out on events, news and important status updates if they are away from social networks.”

FOMO can be applied to pretty much all areas of our life, too. There’s the fear that we could be in a better job. A better relationship. Living in a better home. Or a better city.

FOMO is also applicable to our purchasing decisions. Brands know this, so they tailor their marketing and advertising in such a way that it intentionally leads consumers to feel “disadvantaged” without their products. In other words, they construct a fear of missing out – leveraging our natural tendency to want more.

Check out this blatant use of FOMO from an EXPRESS email campaign as an example:


For those who don’t know, EXPRESS is a large, affordable U.S. fashion brand. There’s nothing particularly “exclusive” about them, but the imagery and wording (notice the subtle “A-LIST” on the card itself) implant the idea that this is a VIP-only rewards scheme.

A lot of the time, however, brands’ use of FOMO is far more subtle. Molson Canadian 67’s ad “Less is More” taps into those moments in life when we feel we’re missing out – namely, falling asleep in a boring meeting, or sitting in a traffic jam – and presents us with some of the more satisfying things we could be doing instead (such as drinking Molson Canadian 67!):

Apple is another excellent example of a brand that repeatedly uses FOMO to its advantage. They begin drumming up excitement for a new product long before launch – the new Apple Watch, for instance, was originally announced in September last year:


By the time the product became available for pre-order (in April this year), it took six hours for waiting lists to get backordered to June. The news was accompanied by a notice on Apple’s site which stated that “new orders of many models wouldn’t ship until the summer.”

It’s common knowledge these days that new Apple products sell out fast, and if you want to be one of the first to own one, you have to be quick off the mark. This works in Apple’s favor, as their products become more desirable simply because of their scarcity.

Of course, it’s easy for brands like Apple (who reportedly spent $38 million advertising the Apple watch in a single month, just on TV) to drum up mass excitement and fear of missing out on their latest release.

For the rest of us, it’s a little trickier – but it’s by no means impossible. Stick with me, and we’ll look at a few ways you can leverage FOMO in your content marketing and use it to help you increase conversions.

Utilize “Content Upgrades”

A content upgrade is when you offer an extension of your content in exchange for something you want from your visitors – occasionally money, but usually, an email address.

A content upgrade plays on the fear of missing out because the reader has already invested a lot of time into the content – they want the full picture, but part of it’s being held back. They fear they’re missing out on important information, so they become much more willing to hand something over in exchange for that information.

Backlinko does this all the time. Owner Brian Dean writes excellent, informative, actionable, and super-detailed posts, but often, he tries to “sell” you more using the content upgrade strategy.

Many of their posts encourage you to take advantage of a “free bonus.” To get the bonus, all you need to do is give them your email address:


Recently, Backlinko wrote a case study which demonstrated that not only does the “content upgrade” work – it works really, really well.

So well, in fact, that it increased the conversion rate on one post from .54% to 4.82% – an increase of 785%!


There are a few ways you can implement the content upgrade yourself:

  • Create your content, but hold back enough information to fill a “supplementary post” that you can offer to readers who want to learn more. Think “Five Ways to Upgrade Your Content” as the initial post and “Five More Ways to Upgrade Your Content” as the “content upgrade” (Kim Roach did just this on a post and achieved a 16% conversion rate).
  • Create your content but “sell” your readers a single additional tip. This can work, if you sell it right. You might for example, offer five awesome tips, but hold back your “top secret” tip that increased conversion by 1,000%.
  • As seen on Backlinko, offer an additional, complementary resource – such as a checklist or step-by-step instructions – on how to implement the tips or ideas featured in the article.


The key to making the content upgrade work is in offering highly targeted content. You wouldn’t, for instance, write a post about how to cook the perfect steak and offer an upgrade on how to cook chicken. The topics are related, but while your audience clearly likes steak, they may or may not also like chicken. Consequently, you need to target them with additional content that will help them cook the perfect steak, such as “Must-Have Equipment the Pros Use to Cook Steak,” or “What Cut of Steak to Buy for Every Occasion.”

Key Takeaway: Each time you create a piece of content, either hold some of it back or create an “accompanying piece” that complements and enhances the main content. These can then be used as “content upgrades” which you can offer to your readers in exchange for an email address.

Leverage Exclusivity

A number of now very successful sites initially launched on an invite-only basis. Off the top of my head I can recall Spotify, Pinterest, and Google+ all employing this tactic.

There’s a number of reasons a site might choose to launch to a limited audience. Beta testing, for one. Often, issues with a site’s usability won’t be uncovered during testing, coming to light only once the site’s actually being used by a real-life audience. It makes sense, then, to initially roll out a site to a very limited audience, so that potential issues can be identified and fixed before becoming a free-for-all.

More importantly however (at least, in the context of this article) is the ability to leverage exclusivity to drive interest and the fear of missing out. Executed correctly, limiting the availability of something (which doesn’t have to mean your website – it could mean a product, or even a piece of content) makes it all the more desirable.

We can see examples of this in action offline, too. Brands regularly produce “limited edition” products – either by releasing a very limited number of products or by selling a product for a limited amount of time (more commonly seen in the food and drinks industry).

This works because consumers either want to get their hands on an exclusive – and potentially valuable – product, or they want to try a “new,” “limited” version of their favorite product before its production run ends.


However, it’s one thing to drum up interest with a limited product run. It’s another thing entirely to offer a limited product to a limited audience.

This is what Heinz did when launching its limited edition Tomato Ketchup. Instead of simply slapping on a “limited edition” label and rolling the product out to stores, they made the first 3,000 bottles available exclusively to fans of their Facebook page.


This is pretty clever stuff, that helped the brand achieve a few different things:

  • Increase the brand’s Facebook likes from fans of Heinz Ketchup who wanted to try the new product, but hadn’t yet become a “fan” of Heinz on Facebook.
  • Make Heinz’s fans feel more valued, helping to improve brand/consumer relations and turn some of those fans into dedicated brand advocates.
  • Generate PR from consumers talking not only about the new product, but about the unique way in which it could be obtained.

This sort of approach can even help to drum up interest in your content. Let me ask you a question… When you create content, why does it automatically have to be available to everybody?

If you’re creating genuinely awesome content, try making it available to a limited audience. Or, try making people work in order to obtain it. Here’s a few ways you might want to go about implementing this:

  • Make your content available by download only, but limit downloads to the first 100. Advertise this fact in your email marketing, and, when the download limit’s been reached, add visitors to a “waiting list” and ask them to complete an action of your choice in exchange for priority in the list.
  • Use a content locker plugin (like Social Locker) to force visitors to “pay” with a “like” or a “tweet” to gain access to your content.
  • Make content or offers available exclusively to your newsletter subscribers. You can leverage this tactic further by creating an “exclusive” email club. The club won’t be available to everyone; it might be that people have to receive an invite from an existing subscriber in order to join, or you might limit subscriptions to 1,000, after which you ask new subscribers to join a waiting list. Another idea might be to ask people to “apply” to become a subscriber by emailing in with a reason why they want to, or deserve to join.

There are lots of ways in which you can employ this tactic; the general idea, however, is to increase the perceived value of your content by limiting its access and to subsequently make visitors fear missing out on the chance to view this content if they don’t take action to get it.

Key Takeaway: Where possible, leverage exclusivity by limiting the availability of a product, website, or piece of content. For example, introduce a new product with a limited run or offer your content “free” to a limited number of readers (in exchange for an email address, of course).

Attach a Time Limit to the Availability of Your Content

This is a similar idea to the above, except, instead of limiting access to your content until a visitor has completed a chosen action (i.e. added themselves to your email list), you place a time limit on your content.

There is a slight drawback to this tactic: once the time limit’s up you’re going to have to remove the content. This means you’ll lose out on any additional traffic, shares, or links the content might have potentially brought in. At least, you will temporarily…

Just because you attach a time limit to your content initially, doesn’t mean you can’t make it available again (permanently) shortly down the line. Think of the limited release as a “content preview” that your email subscribers or social following can get exclusive access to.

Key Takeaway: When you release a new piece of content, make it available for a very short time (say, 48 hours), being sure to push this fact when you promote it. A few weeks after the “limited release,” republish the content – this time permanently.

Re-Engage Idle Readers

Sometimes, a reader will be impressed with your content and sign-up to your mailing list, but never actually open your emails or return to your site.

It sucks when that happens. I get it. But an idle subscriber doesn’t have to stay that way.

With a cleverly-worded email, you can strike the fear of missing out in those forgotten readers and re-engage them with your emails, site, and content.

Take a look at this email from designer discount boutique Rue La La:


Basically, this email achieves two things:

  • It helps Rue La La to purge their email list. A subscriber that never has (and never will) open an email is nothing more to you than a number. By clearing your list of permanently inactive subscribers, you get a clearer picture of the size of your audience and you put yourself in a better position to measure the success of your email marketing. Not to mention the fact that, if you pay email marketing fees based on the size of your list, weeding out inactive members could save you money.
  • It reminds subscribers who usually overlook your emails what they’re missing out on by blatantly addressing FOMO. The email also makes them fear missing out in the future by stating that if they don’t show themselves to be active subscribers, this email will be their last.

If the open and engagement rates on your emails just aren’t where you’d like them to be, this tactic could be exactly what you need to simultaneously remove inactive subscribers from your list and reignite engagement with those that do care, but have gone a little quiet.

Key Takeaway: Every few months or so, send an email out to all of your inactive subscribers, asking them to confirm whether or not they still wish to receive your emails. Make sure to state what they stand to miss out on if they unsubscribe, and warn them that remaining quiet will see them removed from your list.

Craft FOMO Into Your Titles and Subject Lines

Like me, I doubt you’re writing emails or creating content for the sake of it. You’re creating these things because you want them to be read – and you want them to lead to action.

Unfortunately, getting your content (and emails) read is easier said than done. On average, for every 10 people that see a headline, only 8 will read it (the headline, that is) and only 2 people will go on to read the actual content.


That said, you can increase the odds of your content being read – and of your emails being opened – by writing an awesome headline. And one way you can do that is by incorporating FOMO.

This could mean…

Emphasizing a limited time offer:

  • “30% Off – Today Only!”
  • “Free Download – First 100 Readers Only!”
  • “Don’t Miss This”
  • “Your Freebie/Points/Offer Is About to Expire – Don’t Miss Out!”

Emphasizing what someone stands to lose if they don’t click on the content:

  • “Your Competitors Doubled Their Conversion Rates – Learn How You Can Too”
  • “Be 20% Better Off Today – Let Us Show You How To Cut the Cost Of Your Marketing”

Cryptic FOMO can work too (particularly in email subject lines that you can personalize):

  • “Sujan, Didn’t This Interest You?”
  • “Sujan, Where Are You?”

Key Takeaways: Boost click-through-rates by crafting headlines (for both emails and content) that strike the fear of missing out in readers by:

  1. Emphasizing a limited time offer
  2. Emphasizing what your readers stand to miss out on if they don’t open your email or read your content
  3. Asking a vague question that piques interest and makes the reader think they may have already missed something

Use FOMO to Enhance Product Pages

The same rules as above apply when crafting copy (or, more specifically, CTAs.)

The most prevalent use of FOMO in sales copy and on product pages is “limited time FOMO,” like this:


And this:


In general, the more specific you make your “limited offer” the better. So, instead of simply saying, “limited time offer” try stating exactly how long someone has to take advantage of the offer or how many products are left before you run out of stock (or the price returns to normal).

Amazon does this across their site:


So does eBay:


That said… while displaying stock numbers is a great way to create FOMO and increase conversions (assuming of course, that the stock numbers you’re displaying are low!), there are ways you make this tactic even more effective.

The primary problem with displaying “available stock” numbers is that the customer isn’t able to visualize how long that stock will be available for. “Five available” doesn’t sound like much, but if the company in question only sells one of these products a week, in reality, there’s no rush to buy. The numbers on their own just don’t really mean that much.


One solution, as seen in the eBay screenshot above, is to also display how many people have recently viewed that particular product. If we know that 21 people have viewed the product in the past hour and we know that there’s only five of the product available, it becomes pretty damn clear that, if we want that product, we should probably get our credit cards out.

Another clever way of enhancing FOMO is with a timer.

We can see this in action on Amazon, which displays exactly how long you have left to order, if you want to receive said order by a particular date:


UK furniture retailer MADE employs this technique in the checkout stage by using a timer that shows the shopper how long they have to complete their purchase before their basket resets:

Screenshot (94)

Similarly, Woot! combines a stock count (of sorts) with a timer to display how long a given product will be available for:


Another clever tactic is to emphasize what a customer stands to lose if they don’t buy your product, as seen here:


Key Takeaways: Craft FOMO into your product page content – even at the checkout stage – by displaying (low) product numbers and/or anxiety-inducing timers. Alternatively (or additionally), enhance your page copy by detailing what visitors stand to lose if they don’t convert.

While cashing in on our inherent fear of missing out is by no means a new or groundbreaking marketing tactic, it remains a very effective one that marketers will want to introduce into all aspects of their website and digital promotions campaigns.

Have you tried this technique before? If so, take a minute to let me know how you’ve implemented it and the results you saw in the comments below:


  1. Sujan,
    This FOMO article is the best I have ever read. It is easy to understand and you give great examples to illustrate your key points. This is GREAT free content for brand marketers to use in email campaigns!
    Michael R. VIP ART EVENTS

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