Moments That Matter: Losing Your Phone, Finding Your Friends

Many of us consider our mobile phone to be our lifeline to the world. Home to essential apps, appointments, messages, music, names, numbers and notes, our mobile devices connect us to the people and things that matter most to us.

At some point, many of us will be faced with the challenge of losing our phone. But that moment of misfortune also has the potential to be wonderful—a chance for people to remember that they are cared for, that help is always close at hand and that life can be surprising and delightful.

As part of our “Moments That Matter” series, we set out with the simple task of exploring how people talk on Facebook about losing their phones. What we unearthed was a story about the importance of friends’ support—and a larger opportunity for brands to participate in and enhance similar moments.

One conversation that never gets dropped

The data revealed that, in an average month, people talking about lost phones in the US generate over 51 million posts, comments, likes and shares on Facebook. The volume is not only significant, but it’s also consistent—people are posting regularly, every day of the week. Facebook is, in a sense, “lost phone central.”


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Mobile is mandatory

Most intriguingly, over 75% of posts about lost phones are generated on another mobile device (for Millennials, it’s over 85%). People may be reaching for their second smartphone, their tablet, a friend’s phone, a stranger’s phone or a new phone of their own. However they do it, the fact that most people post about their lost phone from another mobile device is perhaps the clearest demonstration of just how integral mobile devices are to life as we know it.

How sharing inspires caring

When people post about losing their phone, the posts are overwhelmingly (and understandably) negative. But the comments that people post in response are primarily positive. This implies that people are coming to Facebook to express their frustration, but the support they get from their friends on Facebook often transforms the conversation into a more positive one, as the newly #phoneless find they are much less alone than they feel.

Receiving 2X more comments than average, “lost phone” posts seem to be a recognized call for help that rallies friends to lend support.


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A constant companion

When we look at the types of posts that make up the “lost phone” conversation, we see that people are sharing their experience on Facebook throughout their journey. Facebook is a place where people announce (and vent about) their missing phone, ask friends and family for phone numbers, discuss devices, carriers and retailers, and share the happy news when they get a new phone.

The conversation itself and the fact that people so naturally turn to Facebook in this moment are poignant reminders of people’s fundamental desire to connect (or reconnect) in both challenging and happy times. The “lost phone” moment also shows how the support of friends and family can turn a challenging experience into a heartwarming one.

Saved by a Samaritan

Most of the “lost phone” conversation is driven by words that describe where and how it all happened and what device is being considered next. However, one word stands out from the rest. Somewhere between “ughhh” and “phoneless,” the word “Samaritan” appears. Separate from the discussion of logistics, devices and retailers, “Samaritan” hints at stories of desperation transformed into elation—all thanks to a stranger’s kindness.


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What it means for marketers

The “lost phone” moment highlights a larger opportunity for brands to help people in trying situations—connecting with people by rescuing and supporting them in meaningful or surprising ways.

Be a constant beacon: While people do visit Facebook throughout their “lost phone” moment, they also tend to move quickly once the loss is discovered. And because the “lost phone” moment is ongoing (people are always losing and talking about their phones) brands may want to take an “always on” approach to fully leverage it. For example, by creating an online resource for the newly phoneless and messaging around the ongoing “lost phone” conversation, brands can build up the goodwill that will lead to advocacy the next time someone asks their friends and family which phone or carrier to consider next.

Be a modern-day Samaritan: Moments that nearly everyone experiences—such as losing a phone or moving house—are opportunities for brands to connect with a broad range of audiences in personally meaningful ways. The key is identifying the moments in which a brand can authentically help and uplift people—whether that means showing empathy, making light of the situation or offering practical solutions.

Be as mobile-first as your audience: The fact that most people find a way to post about their lost phones from another mobile device is perhaps the ultimate insight into how essential mobile has become to people today. For many, mobile is the primary and preferred means for connecting with the world. Brands intent on staying relevant will want to plan to leverage mobile in a way that reflects the mindset and behaviors of a mobile-first society.


Source: Facebook internal data for people ages 18+ in the US, Mar 5–Apr 5, 2015.