Tag Archives: SocialSteve

Chasing Your Dreams – a Couple of Different Perspectives

chase your dreams

This past week included one of those moments that sticks in your mind for the rest of your life. My son was completely stressed out the day he would hear from the only college he really wanted to attend. Max applied early decision and was notified that he would find out the decision on Thursday at close of business.

Max is truly an inspiration to me. Yes … The son inspires the father. Ever since he was a preschooler, he has been extremely focused and committed to academics (and any other project he would take on). Max is a top performer … Getting just about straight A’s throughout his 12 years of education. I have never met someone so driven. I certainly was not at his age.

On Thursday, Max was on edge all day. He told me that it was the most important day of his life. After school, he was so worked up that he just had to get out of the house. About an hour later, Max calls me … his friend has a flat tire. I tell them I will meet them to help them out. As I am changing the flat, Max checks his college status online and starts to scream … In joy!

Max had his life long dream come true through hard work, dedication, and focus. But actually it is not a life long dream, it is only one chapter of his life. Granted it is a pinnacle moment. But his life will be full of greater accomplishments that will flourish beyond this moment. And hopefully he will see continued success in capturing his dreams. But does anyone really capture all his or her dreams?

This takes me to another scenario … Me, Social Steve, chasing my dreams. I am at the age when most people stop dreaming. An age when people get complacent where they are. They accept what they have achieved and continue to idle along. But that has never been my style since my post-teen years. The chorus of Victoria Williams’ song Century Planet rings in my ears …

Do you want to come out and play the game?
It is never too late.
Hey, do you want to come out and play the game?
It is never too late.

I am still chasing my dreams. I have not reached them. But I still chase my aspirations with the dedication, focus, and commitment my son displays every day. I continue to be led by a line I learned decades ago – “luck is the residue of design.”

This is not to say that I do not have a fulfilling and good life. I have an amazing family that keeps me level headed all the time. Their presence makes me stop and appreciate everything I have. But I do not stop dreaming and chasing. Someone asked me for five words to describe my life. My reply was – “blessed and stressed learning journey.” My life view comes from having a handful of awesome people surrounding me and still reaching for the stars.

So sometimes you chase your dreams and get them. Sometimes you don’t. Another motto I live by is “it takes more failures to succeed than it does to fail.” You have to keep on trying and never have complacency … Even if you have accomplished your dream. If you become content capturing your dream, what are you going to do the rest of your life? The reality is that life is made up of chapters. Is your book of life finished?

My message to you is that you should always be driven and committed to chasing your dreams … At any age. Do not think dreams you attain and ones that elude you define the quality of your life. I think Leo Burnett said it best – “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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5 Marketing Musts for a Successful Year Ahead

5 marketing mustsIt is the end of the year and many are making their predictions on marketing trends for 2015. Yes, I am sure those trends like mobile, content marketing, and big data will make many lists. Heck, I think some prudent blogger will even say smart small data will be bigger than big data.

But I don’t think it should be about trends. I think it is about taking what you have learned about your target audience and putting that to work for your brand. If you want your business to thrive, you need to understand the people you serve. I am often quoted for saying “marketing is the psychology of business.” How do you get their attention? How do you gain their interest? How do you get them to buy your product over the competition’s? How do you make them enthusiastic and loyal to your brand? And most powerful, how do you turn them into your brand advocate such that they share the supreme value of your brand with their friends, family, and colleagues. A business psychologist knows how to motivate people.

So if you take this mentality and examine people’s shopping and purchasing behavior (both B2C and B2B) in the past year you will know what is important and imperative for your marketing strategy and execution. Understand the psychology of your audience. Understand how you appeal to their emotions. Taking this approach I have identified five marketing musts for the coming year.

1) Storytelling – disruptive advertisement is out. People do not want ads thrown in their face. They react negatively and many now ignore ads. 86% of people skip TV commercials. 44% of direct mail is never opened. 91% of people have unsubscribed from company emails they previously opted into. On the other hand, people love compelling stories. “Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Stories are universal in that they can bridge cultural, linguistic, and age-related divides… Storytelling can be used as a method to teach … Learning is most effective when it takes place in social environments that provide authentic social cues about how knowledge is to be applied. Stories function as a tool to pass on knowledge in a social context.” (Source) One thing has not changed since the beginning of mankind … People like stories. People remember stories.

2) Holistic User Experience – Consider how your audience captures information. Who their influencers are? How they become aware of products and consider them for purchase. What path do they take on their journey to purchase and how do they remain loyal. What motivates them to become an advocate? Aim to get your target audience emotionally bound to your brand by having deep empathy for them. And then leverage that knowledge of empathy by delivering a user experience in every company-customer touch point that is truly appreciated and valued by the target audience. (By the way, if you want some excellent suggestions on integrating storytelling with your user design, checkout Adam Kleinberg’s article “Storytelling and User Experience Are on a Collision Course” in AdAge.

3) Personalization – people are rejecting brand communication because they are inundated with uninteresting and irrelevant correspondence being thrown at them. Companies need to use information sources to better understand their audience. Companies need to deliver meaningful engagement based upon social listening and profiles, purchase history and other CRM data. Individuals are much more likely to accept brand communication if it is relevant to them personally.

4) Community – A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. Don’t be preoccupied with the number of community members. Rather, think of each community member as a potential brand advocate. Your brand should not only demonstrate that it shares common values with its audience, but also be the source for people to engage with other likeminded individuals. If the conversations between people with common values happen in the brand domain, the brand is further associated and valued to each member of the group. Learn more about the business value of community in the articles “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community” and “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.”

5) Advocates – Nothing is more influential then an objective person telling another about the greatness and value of a brand. The word of friends, family, and colleagues clearly trumps a company marketing their brand. So what if a brand focused on a finite relatively small group to engage with to get them to love their products and brand. What if the marketing strategy was to then unleash this group to rally support for the brand? I am not suggesting forgetting about the mass target audience. It is not an either-or brand-marketing proposition. Do both. But recognize the results you can drive with a set of advocates. Make advocacy one of your marketing pillars.

And there you have my marketing suggestions for the next year. It is not a list taken from assessing technology wizardry. Not a list based upon trends and hype. It is customer centric. Always going back and understanding the behavior and motivations of your audience will drive success.

Marketers need to evolve because their audience is smarter and has more control than in previous years. Marketers’ brand position and reputation is now partly defined by the democratic people. I believe that marketers now need to think of themselves as running a successful media company. That is, they always ask themselves, “How do I get the audience to consume my brand, my story, my video, my picture, my article? What will make them share it with their friends?” If you follow the five areas I outlined, you will get there with measured success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

9 Factors Separate Social Marketers that are Ready to Kick Butt

It was seven years ago that my marketing career took a new turn to the world of social marketing. I noticed early, that brands would lose some control of their position and reputation as dictated by the democratized public. The people had a strong set of platforms to share their likes and dislikes for companies, brands, and products. In fact these objective opinions and declarations trump brand-marketing communication. The audiences’ voice is loud and moves fast.

Then I felt like I was pushing a boulder uphill in social marketing. But now I see the struggle easing and a good deal of the smoke clearing. I see that brands want to plug into their audiences’ behaviors and actions. Companies have a strong interest in leveraging digital and social technologies. Trepidation has been replaced by exuberance and to outsource or employ knowledgeable and experienced social marketers. And now I see that there are a number of social marketers ready to kick butt and make a real difference in empirical results that align to companies’ KPIs (key performance indicators).

social marketing success

So what are those successful social marketers doing that set them apart from wanna-bes? There are nine factors or social marketing practices that when executed together distinguish social marketers that will rise to the top.

1) Strategy – A while back I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” You cannot just “do social.” You must start with a mission, goal and objective, and follow up the documented strategy with a plan.

2) Listening – When it comes to social marketing, I know you are talking, but are you listening. A key element to building a relationship is listening. I always liked the line; “we have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as mush as we talk.” Social marketing champions listen to people talking on the brand’s digital and social assets and the ones that the brand does not own. They listen for brand mentions as well as keywords that are relevant in the brand category.

3) Empathy – probably the greatest factor in social marketing success is having complete understanding and empathy for your audience. Successful marketers understand their audience. They know what turns them on and turns them off as well as what motivates them to deliver word of mouth marketing for the brand.

4) Messaging Strategy – this is a function straight out of marketing communications 101, but at the same time not an area the social marketer always tackles. Shrewd social marketers know exactly how they want their brand to look and sound in social channels. They make sure all communication and correspondence uphold the brand image they desire in social communications.

5) Content Strategy and Plan – In order to have a successful brand social presence, you need to have a continuous and compelling stream of content. Brands need to think like media companies. Many marketers find it difficult to shift from an advertorial mentality to a softer content marketing approach. (Required as a function of target audience perception and behavior.) To help here, I have offered advice. Start with three articles from this year – a) “4 Tips for Winning Content,” “Delivering the Content Your Audience Wants,” and “The Content Development Plan Every Marketer Should Use.”

6) Sharing – the best social marketers understand and plan how to get their brand content shared. It is more than simply having social widgets attached to a blog article. Rich relationship building and seeding various calls to action spawn greater brand sharing.

7) Personalization and Engagement Plan – in the day and age where just about every brand is going to partake in social media, successful brands need to be most relevant to their audience. Relevance comes from understanding individuals through engagement and personalization. Leading social marketers increase relevancy to their audience by having personalized communication and well defined engagement plans and then fine-tuning them based upon executional results.

8) Community – More and more social marketers and community managers are learning from the strengths and shortcomings of having a brand presence on Facebook. They are learning the true value of having an online community of loyalists and advocates that can be unleashed to do marketing on behalf of a brand. Now, Facebook has practically abandoned non-paid brand presence. At the same time, brand communities activate loyalists to produce advocates. Given these circumstances, I recommend you check out “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

9) Know How to Measure Results – I do not care what role anyone has in any line of business. You have to show results that are meaningful to the executive team. For social marketers this means going beyond “reach and engagement” because most executives I know cannot translate “reach and engagement” to their KPIs. If this is an area that still has you befuddled read “Here is the ROI for Social Marketing.”

So yes … I think there is a fair share of movers and shakers in the social marketing arena. And yes there are still a greater number of fakers out there. But the point is that you now have a large enough talent pool to go after to make a difference in your business. Drill into your candidates and make sure they have experience in the 9 areas I outlined above. And as always, if you have a question or need some help, contact me.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, Facebook, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

Facebook is Dead for Brands, Now What?

Facebook deadIn the summer, Facebook reduced the organic reach of brand’s posts to less than 2% of the brand’s likes. With dismissal results like this, why are brands continuing to have a social strategy that includes Facebook?

According to a Facebook spokesperson, “We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.”

Fast forward to the present and Facebook is reporting record growth. The company earned $2.96 billion in ad revenue in the third quarter, up 64 percent from just a year ago. So yeah, Facebook is not dead. It is just dead as a social sharing option for brands. For brands, Facebook is nothing more than another mass audience platform to deliver advertisements. Smart companies no longer use paid Facebook to produce blatant sales ads. They create paid stories on Facebook to adapt to users’ behavior. So yes, Facebook is a good platform for targeted paid media. But what should brands do to build relationships and grow their target audience organically?

A good two years ago plus, I suggested that “… Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community” over two years ago. While Facebook has changed much in the past couple of years, my premise has stayed the same. And now it is punctuated more than every.

When it comes to Facebook (or any other platform) you must remember – You do not own it. You never owned the complete data set of your likes and that should have been a yellow flag all along. Facebook has changed its rules of engagement for brands more than any other social platform, but you can expect other platforms to follow course. If you want to manage your own social strategy without having your strings pulled, think about embedding your community on your own site.

The first response I get when I tell (non-strategic) people this is, “But Facebook has a gazillion users that I need to leverage. I could never get as many ‘likes’ on my own community.” And you know what … they are correct. You could never get as many followers on your own community. But your own community can still yield great results.

First off, of all the likes you have converted on Facebook, an overwhelming majority of them never really followed you to begin with. Most of them were enticed by some promotion and then never paid attention to you after that. And now with a practically non-existent organic reach, just about no one sees your post anyway.

The second reality is that if someone opts in to be a community member on your own site, they really are interested in your brand. Yes the number of onsite community members will likely be significantly smaller than the number of Facebook likes. But the community members are true brand loyalist (assuming you give them compelling information, stories, and promotions as a community member). Would it not be great if you had 500 community members and 100 of them were true advocates spreading the word about your brand? What is the value of having 100 objective people sharing your brand, marketing your brand to their friends and family?

Early this year, I gave you pointers on “Successful Social Marketing Integrating Content and Community.” In another article I told you ”Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-investment.” Consider these two strategies going forward. Make sure the digital assets you own are most valuable and compelling to your audience. Build a marketing strategy based upon the capture and conversion of your target audience on YOUR OWNED digital assets. Then use other social platforms and channels to drive traffic to your digital asset.

In summary, let me ask you a rhetorical question … where do you think you can best monetize your target audience … on your digital asset or one owned by the other person?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under community, Facebook, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Here is the ROI for Social Marketing

social marketing ROISocial marketing ROI; not social media ROI. I hope everyone realizes that “Social Media is Not Social Marketing and Why It Matters.” Additionally, we are talking about social marketing. Not social sales. A successful marketing outcome is lead generation, which is one step short of sales. The successful outcome of sales is a sale. (Pretty profound – huh?)

It is also worth noting that it is very difficult to attribute a specific sale to a social interaction. First of all, many peer-to-peer conversations cannot be monitored. If a verbal exchange happens where one participant recommends a product/service to another and the recipient responds with a purchase, attribution is near impossible. Similarly, most conversations on individuals’ social channels are private. If someone asks their friends for a recommendation on Facebook, and people reply, the individual’s privacy settings most often eliminates the ability to track such exchanges.

So the ROI of social marketing is not sales. It is audience adoption, development, and relationship building to yield awareness, consideration, enthusiasm, loyalty, and advocacy for a brand. And take note that I said brand. Not product/service. The brand is an extension beyond the product or service. It is the personality, stories beyond and overall customer experience that go beyond the specific product/service.

So what exactly does audience adoption, development, and relationship building mean such that it can be measured to evaluate ROI. Let’s start theoretically and then we will move to empirical.

Audience adoption and development means that you are taking the appropriate steps to make target segments (not the entire universe) aware of your offering. You do this by engaging in places the target segments frequent. You aim to go beyond getting their attention and actually get them attracted to your brand. Continuous audience development means that you remain an active participant in the digital channels they frequent so they start to build affinity for your brand. Relationship building continues when your target segment members literarily opt in to be part of your audience by their action. They sign up to receive emails, follow you, like you, and subscribe to your blog/site via RSS. Once they have become a member of your audience you have an opportunity to really enhance their user experience and develop an emotional bond. And the most successful outcome of the relationship for a brand is not a sale. It is having that individual refer and market your product for you. Yes they will buy the product along the way, but if they can influence people to try your product, ultimately you will yield grander sales.

So that is the theoretical side. But as one post-it read on the door of an executive at an agency where I worked, “there is no time for theoretical,” I’ll give you the empirical ROI. That is what matters for all types of executives.

Over two years ago, I wrote an article “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.” But like I said in the beginning of this article, social marketing is not social media. So that article requires an update. (And thus this article. :) ) In the original article, I made a point that social was poor to be used as a direct sales tool. But I said social was excellent for teeing up sales as a function of the other stages of a sales/marketing funnel – awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. I talked about a Social Brand Index I formulated which was a complex measurement with different coefficients for various parameters highlighting increased awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Below is a chart showing some of the parameters I used.

measured-social-media

But here’s the thing. Yes, successful social marketing increases the Social Brand Index month over month. But the real ROI of social marketing comes from your specific goals and objectives.

First understand what social marketing CAN do – the theory behind it. The value related to audience adoption and development, and relationship building. Understand how those facets relate to your company’s KPIs (key performance indicators). Determine what you want to accomplish, your goals and objectives. Back to marketing and lead generation … Do you need to increase awareness and consideration? Understand your company’s drivers. For example, many companies look at the cost of customer acquisition versus retaining customers. Others look at lifetime value of a customer. Loyalty is key in both these areas. And then of course there is the paramount value of social marketing – advocacy. Advocacy is the ability to unleash objective individuals to market your product/service to their friends, family, and colleagues. Is your company looking to accomplish this?

Social can do all these things, but you may be focused on some specific objectives. Determine this in the beginning of your social marketing effort. Then collect the data and show trending empirical results. Review some of the parameters I provided in the chart above and tweak for your own scenario. This is YOUR ROI. When you make a friend, what is the value of that friend? Different people would answer this question in many different ways. It is analogous with social marketing and companies. Everyone knows there is value in audience adoption and development. Everyone knows there is value in building relationships. But the ROI (the value) of these activities may be different for companies based upon the companies’ KPIs. It is also worth mentioning that different social marketing executions will yield various results on increasing awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy.

In summation, the ROI of social marketing IS audience adoption and development as well as relationship building. Social marketing does have an ROI and can be measured. Based upon specific goals and objectives, various companies can measure social marketing ROI differently. But social marketing ROI can be measured if your strategy addresses what you look to accomplish and how the social marketing strategy contributes to your organization’s KPIs.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under measuring social media, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Willie Nile and Nels Cline: Uncommon Ground

It is rare that I cover subjects beyond digital, social, marketing, and leadership on The SocialSteve Blog. I have never had a guest blogger on The SocialSteve Blog. But when the planets align, one needs to make exceptions. Thus is the case with an article that follows. This past week, I saw two concerts that were truly extraordinary, both with a bud of mine. We were both so moved by the awesome talent and passion delivered. The following is piece is written by bud, “SeeBe.”

Witnessing genius is profound, thought provoking and at best transformational. Rare events indeed, until one has grown a set of ears and open heart, willing to experience greatness shining loud and blaring bright as Willie Nile’s and Nels Cline’s.

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Deconstructing the name CLINE, we are able to see contained within, the surname of NILE. Willie is a songwriter, a wordsmith able to convey poignant beauty with often simple characterizations, nailing it to our consciousness; expanding our regard and reference of what rock music can really be.

Cline contains Nile, just rearranged into new form, using notes, beats, and other worldly musical communication expressing metaphysical truth. Nels speaks the foreign tongue, whose source of speech is likely divine. Skilled improvisers, Nels and Co span a range as wide as the Grand Canyon. I’m not joking. This is a man who can speak softly with gentle prowess on the acoustic, release and free rock guitar as brilliant as ANY, enter into deep grateful space, bang hard like a metal head, live in free-form jazz land while creating new and airy dimensions where all have say; communion of sorts..

Willie oh Willie how grand your majesty. . . Troubadour Extraordinaire… Bruce Springsteen wearing a brilliant disguise, existing under popular radar for no reason other than fate which enters all lives. That same fate allows me to know Willie Nile exists. Genuine human love emanates and is shared between Willie and we the listeners of the Nile Gospel. Although Nile contains one less letter than Cline, he’s more succinct when dropping the Nile Gospel bomb upon us. Minutes are all that’s needed for Willie to draw us deep into his world.

Fortunate for us Cline has an additional letter, with Nile completely rearranged. It’s a creation of Frankenstein proportion; big, scary and gentle. Nels somehow walks the earth able to contain by day what comes out at night. Ferocious splendor consumes, initiating transformation from Clark Kent to Superman. This is not hyperbole. Some day a book will be written and it will be called The Transformation of Nels Cline.

Both men walk upon uncommon ground. This ground I speak, generally invisible becomes exposed when soul willie and soul nels are performing. Both stand naked as any clothed human can be. Each fiber of their being spread across the little universe we all share, intertwining with ours creating new and memorable moments. These are humble journeymen who have become masters though they would never acknowledge such achievement.. Real deal indeed!

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Where Social Media Marketing Starts and Ends

For the past couple of years, there have been a number of articles that state the career of the social media manager has a limited life. The rationalization is that the responsibilities that go along with the position will be “natural” functions of everyone’s job. This may be true, but it really is a question of where social media marketing starts and where it ends.

social media marketing start - finish

Let’s recognize that social media and social marketing are not the same thing as discussed in “Social Media is NOT Social Marketing and Why It Matters.” I am reminded of this just about every week in my social consulting profession. If you were to ask ten people where social starts and ends, you would get about eleven different opinions.

This past week I was interviewing for a position at a company for the role of Social Media Director. The interview was going great. About five minutes into the conversation, the interviewee realized that my skill set and experience stretched far beyond the job description of the Director of Social Media. She mentioned there was also an open position for an Audience Development Director as well. Interestingly enough, the Audience Development Director position had some social media responsibilities.

I always thought the job of some one in social media was much more than putting up Facebook and Twitter posts. (And now a host of numerous other possible platforms). The job of “social” should really be about moving the target audience further down the line of brand awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy.

Does this mean that the job title is misleading? Besides Audience Development Director, do we sometimes call these roles Digital Marketers, Inbound Marketers, Experiential Marketers? Probably so. As so many others and I have said countless times, social media cannot be a separate thing and/or an after thought. “Social” must be integrated with many marketing disciplines driven by audience behavior. Nothing else and definitely not organizational structures aimed at putting people in simple boxes. At the end of the day (and profitable year :) ), you want someone that has the ability to capture an audience and get them emotionally tied to your brand. So emotionally tied that they want to tell everyone how great the brand is.

So back to the question at hand … “Where Social Media Marketing Starts and Ends?” I would say that “social” job responsibilities should include the following …

• Set marketing strategy based upon brand position, brand value proposition, target audience demographics and behaviors, and competitive differentiation.
• Set marketing plan consisting of defined objectives, target audience definition, target audience perceptions, defined offering, and call to action(s).
• Determine marketing communication messaging theme and content.
• Develop content strategy, plan, and calendar.
• Determine marketing channels (owned, earned, and paid media) to utilize and converse interactively in.
• Define use of brand digital assets (website, social) to maximize audience participation and word-of-marketing.
• Listen to target audience and interact with them to optimize brand awareness, loyalty, and advocacy.
• Develop brand community and grow.
• Community management – including brand channels and engagement on non-brand owned channels.
• Increase community subscription.
• Identify brand category influencers.
• Use digital PR and digital outreach to brand category influencer.
• Develop partnerships (bloggers, media sites, technology providers).
• Increase email (newsletter) subscription.
• Collaborate with sales team to help advertisers leverage brand content and presence without disenchanting brand audience. (Develop programs for advertisers beyond “display”.)
• Product marketing and road mapping.
• Plan digital presence for events and execute.
• Use analytics tools to gain insights and drive strategy and plan modifications.
• Monitor digital channels for brand mentions and keywords in brand category to gain awareness and increase brand loyalty.
• Deliver quantifiable results – website traffic (visits, unique visits, time on site, lower bounce rate) and social brand index (brand awareness, brand consideration, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy).
• Complete integration of SEO, paid media, and all other marketing efforts (online and offline).

What would you add or subtract from the list?

Make it happen,
Social Steve

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