SXSW 2015: Pinterest Tackles Users’ Fear of Missing Out

“Fear of missing out” (FOMO) is a reality in today’s digital landscape, as users gain more access to knowledge from around the world, according to Raashi Bhalla, a creative strategist at Pinterest, who spoke to ClickZ at South by Southwest. To combat this, brands and marketers must seek new ways to engage consumers.

Social media and content overload have trained our brains to constantly click in search of something new. “The fast-paced timing of the digital world is becoming such a part of consumers’ lives that brands have to learn a different way to keep users tuned in,” Bhalla said. “Users always know there’s something better. One way to combat the short attention span is to do something disruptive.”

Pinterest is attempting to disrupt users who constantly click for something better by developing a discovery engine that generates content to continually surprise and delight, Bhalla said. This discovery engine maps user behavior to predict new interests before Pinners have a chance to click away. “Our discovery engine is a series of equations that takes into consideration things users actually want but didn’t know exist,” Bhalla said.

Unlike a search engine, where users begin with a destination in mind, Pinterest users “know the starting place, but don’t know where they will end up. That’s where we’re able to surprise and delight in a serendipitous way,” Bhalla said.

Another way brands can keep users engaged and combat FOMO is to keep content focused on a specific message. For example, shoe brand Timberland has found its value and delivered content that keeps users from getting bored. “Timberland does a lot of sustainable work, and the brand tells stories of sustainability on video that makes the audience care about their process of manufacturing,” Bhalla said.

According to Bhalla, many brands spend too much time attempting to distract consumers with content that doesn’t reflect any specific values, leaving customers clicking away in search of authenticity. “Brands shouldn’t get lost in the bells and whistles,” Bhalla said. “A good story will always be a good story.”

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