FOMO, not social channel preference, drives social media usage on mobiles…

Life used to be simpler. In the not-so-distant past you awoke, by whatever means, and depending upon your relationship might have had a cuddle or more intimate moment. Then you got out of bed and showered or had breakfast and prepared for the day.

Some of us were woken by radio, so we could listen to the news before, or as we started our day. Some even switched on a TV to catch the news – to see if any terrorist acts, wars, floods or famine occurred while you slept. It was a simple start to the day.

But things have become more complicated. Now it appears for many, the first thing we do when we awaken is “check our phones” – partners come a distant second on the priority list. And we’re not checking for missed phone calls, voicemail or even news.

No, we’re checking content on social media. Because as we all know, it’s the central repository for all things important. I’ve been fascinated by this behaviour and over the last four semesters teaching at university, I’ve discussed it with my students – tomorrow’s advertising and marketing legends.

We run a session in which we track ‘a day in the life of a consumer‘ in terms of the media they are exposed to throughout the day and how they interact (or ignore) with the various media channels. I’ve asked all my students “what is the first thing you do when you wake in the morning?

Almost 100% answer “check our phones“. Some will even do so before they relieve their full and bursting bladders.

But being the curious bugger I am – I probe deeper. “What do you check on your phones” I ask? “Social media” choruses the answer.

And deeper – “what channel do you check first“, I inquire?

And this is where it gets interesting. Many don’t know what channel they check. If that sounds strange, it’s not when you think about it.

Because they are not checking channels. They are checking notifications – and they check the channel with the most notifications first – after all, that’s the most activity they missed while asleep. Their FOMO drives the channel they check first.

wakey, wakey, rise n shine, get out of bed it’s FOMO time…

So, if a post on Instagram has lots of activity that triggers notifications, they check that channel first. Or if they are tagged in a Facebook exchange resulting in lots of notifications, Facebook is the first port of call.

Their choice of a channel has nothing to do with the preference for the channel and everything to do with their Fear Of Missing Out on something, such as their name being tagged in a photo. After all, this is way more important than any terrorist acts, wars, floods or famine – or intimacy with their partner.

You see, notifications present a dilemma. The more notifications they have, the further behind the social curve they are – and other people might notice. OMG! Emoji. Emoji. Emoji. Emoji. #hashtag

The implication of course, though not scientific, is they ignore any ads that appear in their feed, as they rush to get back to the head of their social position. It also means marketers cannot assume people scroll through their feeds in a linear fashion, taking in all the messages that appear from friends and marketers, casually accommodating notifications.

If the consumer you are trying to reach is highly popular, they may never see your advertising – as they have no interest in anything but processing their notifications. But there is an easy way to know – test.

I suspect a few of you wise readers have occasionally been guilty of FOMO created by your phone? It’s not really a good reflection on human nature, is it? But I’m not trying to make you feel guilty – rather, reflect.


It also appears from a marketing point of view, the more you can get your customers tagging and hashtagging your message, the more chance you have of maybe, possibly, being noticed on a social channel on a mobile – maybe.

Then again, you could just call customers on their phone – that’s such a rarity these days you’re bound to beat the FOMO barrier.

Gotta go – my phone just pinged and it’s obviously vitally important that I drop everything. WOW, it’s a meeting notification. Maybe I should screenshot it and share for everyone to see…

© Malcolm Auld Direct Pty Ltd 2022 | Commercial In Confidence

Privacy Policy

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop