What Is FOMO in Copywriting? (And How to Use It Effectively)

Fear of missing out (also known as FOMO) is a concept widely used in marketing copy. If you’re an editor working in this area, you’ll need to understand how it works. In this post, we’ll explain what FOMO means in copywriting and how you can help your business clients use it effectively.

What Is FOMO?

FOMO is the name given to the feeling that something popular, exciting, or even life-changing will pass you by if you don’t take a certain action. It’s often employed as a marketing technique to make people more likely to purchase a product, sign up for a service, or follow through on a call to action.

You’ve probably come across this concept already. Some common examples include:

  • Messaging that lets a customer know how much of a product is available (e.g., “Only 3 items left in stock!”).
  • Pop-ups that remind a customer about an offer when they’re about to navigate away from a page (e.g., “Don’t miss out on our 2-for-1 offer”).
  • Member or subscription-only offers, mailing lists, and services, also known as gated content (e.g., “Unlock exclusive features by signing up”).
  • Language that implies others have already made use of the product or service (e.g., “Join 5,000+ happy customers”).

FOMO can be a powerful marketing tool, but it’s not always used to its full potential.

Editing to Enhance FOMO

If you’re editing business copy for a client and your brief allows for it, you may want to help your client tweak their content to enhance the FOMO effect. 

Here are some ways you can edit copy to better highlight what the customer may miss out on:

  • Draw attention to time limits. A driving force of the FOMO phenomenon is urgency. This means it’s crucial to make sure any time limits are made clear to the reader. If your client hasn’t already done so, consider placing time limits at the start of the copy, repeating them again elsewhere, and including language that implies urgency (e.g., “hurry,” “selling fast”). You should also check that time limits are accurate and give exact deadlines, such as a date or a specific span of time.

Offer ends soon, so don’t miss out! ✘

Offer ends in 24 hours, so don’t miss out! ✔

  • Emphasize availability. No one wants to lose out on an opportunity because someone else got there first. This is why letting customers know when a product is low in stock, or when an offer is limited to a certain number of visitors, can help push them toward signing up or making a purchase. Edit your client’s writing to emphasize how limited the stock is, and make sure this warning is paired with a call to action (e.g., “Only 3 left! Secure yours now!”).
  • Use language that references exclusivity. If your client’s copy references any gated content, dress this offer up with language that implies the reader will be missing out on something special if they don’t follow through with an action. “Members only,” “unlock more features,” “VIP deals,” “limited edition,” and “join the family” are all examples of such language.
  • Make sure social proof is available. In marketing, social proof is often provided through reviews and testimonials that show a product or service has been used and enjoyed by others – and that it can be trusted. If your client has not provided any sort of social proof in their copy, you should advise them to do so by either including reviews or providing a link to testimonials and affiliates.

It’s also important to make sure your client won’t overwhelm customers by triggering the FOMO response too much or in a way that isn’t believable. As with most customer-focused business writing, it’s about finding the right balance between copy that compels readers to act and content that readers can trust.

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