Fear of Missing Out – User Technology Adoption

What drives users to engage with applications on mobile and in social?  Why do we spend over an hour a day interacting with our iPhones?  I don’t know the answer.  I was taught never to ask questions you don’t know the answer to, but there you go.  I came across two articles about this that got me thinking and I think there is something here to remember as you are trying to get people to engage with your brand and your apps in the SoLoMo space.

Technology Adoption Research 

Generally, folks who are optimistic tend to adopt technology more easily than others.  While those who are more pessimistic (some would say realistic) and have more insecurity are more resistant.  One of the early measures used to describe your user’s readiness to adopt technologies is the Technology Readiness Index (TRI).  The authors of that early research, A. Parasuraman and Charles Colby, suggest that individuals ability to embrace technology should influence how you market technology products to them.

Obvious on it’s face, right?  What you need to remember in the SoLoMo space is that adoption of technologies by users to engage with your brand in a hyper-local way is driven by that.  We are still at the early stages of this journey.  There is no ubiquity of technology that is ever present, a technology familiar if you will, that insulates us from technology.  An omnipresent assistant will someday become commonplace and accepted without reservation.  Right now all the things we are trying to do as brands and companies revolve around getting our users to accept our technology.  To accept our presence in their life.  Some of you may balk and say that adoption is all about getting the mobile device in their hands.  That is definitely not true.  Adoption is about them enabling your app’s access to their information and their use of it.

I talked yesterday about giving value for information, and there is some of that here as well.  Provide value for your presence and you will be accepted.  However, you also need to work with the psychology of your users as well.  Some of them will need more value than others.  For me, giving me the right furnace-filter size is enough value for me to allow a home-improvement store app to intrude on my life.  I am generally optimistic, so my TRI is higher than say that of my more pessimistic friends.

After Early Adopters, Fear May Drive

Now to the title of the post.  Over the last week or so I have seen more mention of the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).  In the teen social media survey, some of their engagement is driven by FOMO.  Other recent references to FOMO:

  • Five Ways Technology Has Failed Us – news.com.au.  “We’re so filled with FOMO (fear of missing out) that we’d rather trawl Facebook and Twitter for the next big thing than talk to our friends and family about the big thing going on in their lives.”  The rest of the article is a great read for those of us that feel chained to our technology
  • A Chat With an Internet Addict Who Was Forced to Go Off the Grid – Hubspot blog.  “So some of the anxiety was around FOMO (a term I just learned, ‘Fear of Missing Out’).”  There is a great discussion about the brain response to quick rewards that are provided by social checking in, as well.

Some of your compulsive checking of the App Store for the new cool app is driven by FOMO.  How much of your time is spent watching your Twitter stream, your RSS reader and Facebook crawl for the next big thing?

In the SoLoMo space, you want to create an atmosphere of this right?  That if your users aren’t using your app, or engaging with you, they are missing out on something.  I am not a psychologist, so I am just beginning to understand some of these trends.  I do know that if you are not examining your users motivations, your consumer adoption may be compromised.  Properly constituted user groups, ad hoc or formalized, may act as a useful surrogate for this.  Rapid prototyping will mitigate the expense of finding out in those groups that your users are not going to adopt your technology.  Looking at motivation before you get to that stage will save even more money.

It Takes a Village

What I have been getting to in all of this is that you need to look at all facets of what brings your users to you.  Marketing professionals have one piece of the puzzle, and your IT people definitely have another.  Professionals in the fields of psychology will also help you.  And don’t forget those folks that can provide insight into everyday user’s use of technology.

I think all of us that compulsively check our phone and our feeds need to work on the underlying cause of avoiding FOMO.  As brand professionals, we need to tap into it.  But don’t fall into the trap of being so enamored of your own idea that you forget whether your users will really want it, or you will sound like this:


 

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