There's no doubt that FOMO has captured the hearts and minds of children and adults alike in this day and age when the knowledge of literally anything our friends are doing is available in our pockets at all times.

FOMO, as defined by The Oxford Dictionary:

While most often associated with how we feel about social media, FOMO applies to marketing too. Let’s take FOMO-thinking a step further and show how to use this ideology in your push for retention.

Why we are obsessed with FOMO

Although intricately tied to your relationship with social media, FOMO is also closely connected to your general level of satisfaction and sense of well-being and autonomy.

Studies have demonstrated the IRL negative effects to FOMO, and none of us like experiencing that "I wish I could be there :(" feeling. But we light-heartedly acknowledge its inescapable omnipresence with a frowny face. In many ways, it's a struggle we can all find commonality in.

Our generational obsession with FOMO supports two implications:

1. We are tied to the desire to be culturally relevant.

We always want to be in the know of anything cool and pertinent, and we do this by obsessively staying connected to everything on the web all the time.

Part of this persistent effort to connect relates to our anxieties that our peers might be in the know, be in possession of, or be experiencing something that we have no idea about. This concept terrifies us because social media forces us to think about the things we lack.

We buy brands that are cool and relevant, read hip news sources, and listen to popular podcasts to avoid cultural FOMO.

2. We hate losing more than we like winning.

Better put for our purposes: we fear missing out more than we actually like being part of everything.

For example, your friends are all going out to dinner. It's Wednesday though, and the weight of the week is getting to you. All you want to do is go home for some good old fashioned Netflix and chill. But there’s that irrational part of your brain telling you to go because, ya know, FOMO.

Let's be real. Do you actually want to be included in this event? Probably not. In reality, everyone will get together, like your group does all the time. They will catch up about their week and talk about current events and television…and that's it. Then they will go home, probably exhausted and secretly wishing they had stayed in.

FOMO is so powerful because we hate not being included more than we actually like being included.

3 ways to use FOMO to drive retention

The good thing about using FOMO in reaching out to your customers is that chances are, they won't experience any real forms of jealousy or instability about themselves, like social media tends to provoke.

But you can call upon that underlying fear of missing out to motivate action. Use FOMO to drive customer retention and re-engage subscribers to your app in these 3 ways:

1. Getting Free Subscribers to Upgrade

Everyone loves a free apps because, duh, they’re free.

However, just because someone is using a free account doesn't mean that they would be opposed to upgrading to a paid account. They simply might not know what premium features they are missing out on.

Janet Choi of wrote about the power of loss aversion in getting your users to move from free to paid. Loss aversion is the powerful emotion associated with not wanting to let go of what you think is yours.

Or as stated above, we hate losing more than we like winning. It’s a specific kind of FOMO.

That's why some of the most effective upgrade emails make you feel like you would be losing out if you don’t upgrade.

One of the tactics Janet mentions is encouraging existing customers with freemium accounts to upgrade by making them feel like you are essentially missing out on something.

For example, Spotify does this with its free users.

They list all of the great features that you get with a premium account and then set you up with a 30-day free trial. Not bad.

When I did this, I thought, "For 30 days, I'll be living like a music king, but then back to being a pauper for me."

31 days later... I had upgraded to a premium account. The FOMO was strong with this one.

Another example that uses is Buffer’s launched of their Pinterest pin-scheduling feature. Buffer knew that Pinterest was their most sought after feature requests, so they decided to offer it as a free 7-day trial.

The idea is that rather than returning to freemium accounts after having premium access to super cool features, subscribers will experience a bit of FOMO and upgrade.

2. Re-Engage People Who Have Been Idle from Your App

It's not uncommon for subscribers to disengage with your app for extended periods of time. This can happen for many reasons. For instance, we live busy lives balancing work, play, more work, and generally managing our own well-being. Just because someone hasn't been around for a while doesn't mean that they still don't value your product.

Apply FOMO to help remind people why they use your app in the first place. Google+ does this in their emails when someone hasn't been using their account for a while.

They will typically pull up one of your connections and show you what they have been doing as a way of letting you know that you have, indeed, been missing out.

This is a picture that my uncle took. He apparently was near Benihana's, but as Google+ pointed out, I had in fact missed out on this information, thus triggering my FOMO to the max.

When did this happen, Uncle Craig? Why wasn't I invited? I better keep up with Google+ so I don't miss out next time.

Front also does this in their emails when someone hasn't upgraded their app, meaning they have probably haven't used it for a long time.

This is a powerful way to tell your subscriber that there have been new features that they could have had access to if they had been staying up to date with the app.

They list their features including a combination of exciting new tools to things that customers had been asking for. One thing’s for sure, they are going to want to update the app to avoid the FOMO.

3. Prevent People from Canceling Their Account

To stop customers from walking away from their accounts, you can play on FOMO to remind them of everything important that they are walking away from.

Facebook does an excellent job of this.

It's already an internal dilemma for most people when they are making that bold decision to cut themselves out of the biggest social media platform. Facebook brings up pictures of some of your closest friends to remind you that you will no longer be able to see what they are doing all the time. Facebook makes a compelling case when you are trying to separate from it.

3 tools that will help you drive retention

Using FOMO for customer retention doesn't have to be a guilt trip. Rather it can be a genuine reminder of value.

If you notice that customers have been inactive for a while or are about to walk away, call on the examples above to show them what they would miss without you.

Here are 3 tools that you should use to drive retention while invoking FOMO:

1. specializes in targeting emails based on what people do or don’t do in your app. It’s a powerful platform for personalizing messages down to each individual user.

2. Weekly Snaps

Weekly Snaps by Share As Image is a useful app that sends you 20 royalty free, professional images every week. Images help appeal to our emotions and can therefore drive retention at a very personal level. All you have to do is sign up for their Weekly Snaps email list.

3. is a customer analytics platform that tells you what customers are and aren’t doing in your app, and which are ripe to feel some FOMO.