You’re now on lesson 11 out of 12 in our Wednesday series on social media.  Be sure to read through the previous lessons if you’ve missed them.  Follow these steps and you just might feel like you’re a social media company rock star.

11. Pull Back the Curtain. When you show your vulnerability, people feel empathy.  If you’re open and honest with your customers, you’ll forge bonds that normally wouldn’t exist.  In marketing, this is a common practice.  It’s intentional and effective.  You’ve probably seen sales letters or T.V. commercials that use what’s called the “damaging admission.”  That’s where they reveal how they used to be fools but now that they’ve been there and done that, they know better.   Domino’s pizza did that last year.  They ran a whole campaign that pulled back the curtain and showed how their pizza used to taste like cardboard but now it was new and improved.  Boy was it successful.  They showed hidden-camera footage from their focus groups.  People said things like, “Yuck.  This is aweful.”  Or “This is flavorless.”  Then the CEO came on and admitted how embarrassed he was when he heard stuff like that so he and his chefs reinvented the Domino’s Pizza recipe.  They started over.  New ingredients.  New cheese.  New sauce.  New spices.

I have to admit, I was a sucker.  I had to see if the new pizza was better than the old.  I ran right out and brought a couple home for dinner.  Turns out, we pick up a couple Domino’s pizzas every Friday night now and watch movies with the kids.

This “damaging admission” technique worked so well, they just started another similar campaign.  This time, they’ve reinvented their cheesy bread sticks.  Same routine, but this time their chefs are talking about how embarrassed that their cheese sticks were so bad.

The reason this works so well is because we’re not used to people being open and honest in today’s society.  We’re trained from a young age to be superficial.  You say, “Good morning, Bob.  How are you?”  Bob replies, “Great.  And you.”  “Couldn’t be better.”  What a load of junk.  Seriously.  You just ran out of the house and were yelling at your spouse 10 minutes ago.  Couldn’t be better?  You don’t want to unload on Bob and tell him how you’re really doing any more than you want to hear how Bob is really doing.  It’s just a formality.   So when a company reveals their sensitive side, it makes us go, “Whoa.  What’s going on here.  If they’re this open and honest, then they must be telling me the truth.”  Isn’t that right?  If they admit that their old pizza really sucked, you have to try the new one because they’re telling you it’s so much better.

When a Pizza Hut ad runs telling you that their new pizza is better than the old one, you just think, “Yeah, sure.  I hear that all the time.”  It’s like new and improved.  Or faster or better.   We’re getting immune to these claims.  But when the claim is preceded by brutal honesty like Domino’s did, you have no reason to not believe them.  Suddenly it doesn’t seem like marketing or advertising.  It seems like a relationship.  The irony is, it’s probably more calculating and strategic than a Pizza Hut ad saying their new pizza is new and improved.

Toyota actually capitalized on this technique last year when they were having so many recalls.  BP used it after the oil spill.  It’s perfect for damage control, but even better when there’s no reason for damage control.   Here’s why.  You expect Toyota and BP to admit fault.  It’s all over the media.  There’s no denying that they did something wrong.  But when Domino’s admits fault, it’s out of the blue.  It’s that much more impactful because they are coming out and admitting something that could have remained hidden.  Powerful stuff.

Anyway, back to Facebook.  You don’t have to run TV ads for the damaging admission to work well for you.  And you don’t have to use it so intentionally that you feel like you’re a slimy marketing guy.   Maybe just admit that you’ve had some issues lately and your inventory was back-ordered because of a strike.   Whatever the reason for your recent complaints.  Facebook is a great place to admit your faults.  People are willing to forgive, if you demonstrate that you’ve learned from your mistakes and are making necessary adjustments.  Just look at Toyota.  They had a banner year.

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