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Building FOMO into your product

More often than not, good things happen when your product mimics real life. Real life emotions, behaviors, motivations, and rewards.

And with the rise of the terrible plague known as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), it’s been interesting to see how products have evolved to include FOMO.

When used correctly, FOMO in your product can add social validation, increase conversions, and boost engagement. Let’s look at some examples…

Facebook Chat

It used to be that you could hide Facebook chat completely so you wouldn’t see it the 76 times you visited Facebook each day. Not so much anymore.

Facebook decide that “turning off” chat should mean just shading the area out, and sticking a whole bunch of FOMO in to get you to turn it back on.

Here’s the view I see in the bottom right corner of my screen each time I look at Facebook:

Facebook Chat — a half truth.

Though it doesn’t expressly say it, most people would be led to believe that these are the people online now available to chat. Turns out that’s not the case. Instead, this list appears to be populated from the people you messaged most recently. It’s a clever way to stock this view with people who are likely to be close connections rather than random high-school friends.

FOMO: Look at this — all your best friends are on Facebook chat right now just hanging out — why aren’t you!?


Back in the day, you would find out about a concert you missed by hearing people talk about it the next day. Recently, that changed to realizing the night of as your friends Tweeted and instagrammed in real-time.

But now, with WillCall, you get a heads up that you’re about to miss out beforehand. If someone in your network buys a ticket on WillCall, you’ll get a push like this:

All the cool kids will be at the concert.

FOMO: You really aren’t going to buy a ticket to the show tonight now that you know your buddies are going? Have fun sitting at home listening to them on Rdio instead!

Waiting Lists (Simple, Mailbox, Tempo)

Waiting in line for an app is the new waiting in line for your coffee.

In recent months, it seems like a product launch is more of a product glimpse for most. Unless you had early access, you’ll be put on a waiting list for access.

Mailbox Waiting List

Some companies respond to anxious, angry audiences with the ruse that waiting lists allow for better scaling and quality efforts. This is half true — but it’s likely marketers and growth hackers behind the scenes pushing for waiting lists.

Mailbox had 1+ million people on their wait list 3 weeks after launch, and Tempo’s line spilled over to around 700,000.

Most of these wait list apps promise faster access if you invite friends or share their service with your networks. These promises are likely phony, but they feed the growth machine and give the impression of progress to those in line.

FOMO: Hundreds of thousands of other people like you are already in line, better grab a spot now before you’re millions behind.

It’s easy to get caught up and forget that so much of the success of a great product is based on real psychology. Embrace human emotions, and you’re on the path to building a great product.

FOMO is one theme — but there are dozens, even hundreds more to consider. A great way to remember and challenge yourself is with Mental Notes, a set of 50+ cards that “describe insight into human behavior and suggests ways to apply this to the design of Web sites, Web apps, and software applications.”

I'm building Bamboo, a user acquisition agency focused on helping mobile commerce products grow.Get in touch: sauterdj@gmail.comFollow me on Twitter: @DannySauter

Running for District 3 Supervisor in San Francisco. Renter, non-profit director, and community organizer. Follow me: @DannySauter


Running for District 3 Supervisor in San Francisco. Renter, non-profit director, and community organizer. Follow me: @DannySauter