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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

How Consumers Interact With Social Media Sites (Facebook Dominates)

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I’m very interested in any data to help businesses maximize their return on investment with social media.

So I was happy to see ForeSee Results publish some simple findings recenty in their Key to Driving Retail Success with Social Media: Focus on Facebook (note: this is a PDF file that you download).

They surveyed 10,000 visitors to the top 40 online retail Web sites.

Some highlights I found in this brief report are:

  • 69% of online shoppers use social media sites (social media users)

Of online shoppers who frequent social media sites:

  • 61% friend or follow 1 to 5 retailers or brands
  • 21% friend or follow 6 to 10 retailers or brands
  • 10% friend or follow 11 to 20 retailers or brands
  • 8% friend or follow more than 20 retailers

Note: “Friend” and “Follow” refer to customers agreeing to have an online connection with a retailer/brand.

The report asserts that:

“Site visitors who also interact with a company on a social media site are more satisfied,more committed to the brand, and more likely to make future purchases from that company.”

Facebook is the dominant social network for People Visiting Online Retail Sites

The table below indicates how dominant Facebook has become — it’s more than twice as popular as #2 YouTube and more than 3X as popular as MySpace.

Source: Foresee Results

Source: Foresee Results

While Facebook is clearly dominant, the report points out that 25 of the top 100 online retailers do not have any formal Facebook presence.

And finally, here’s some insight into why consumers interact with businesses through social media.

The Top Three Reasons Customers Interact With a Business’s Social Media Site:

  1. To Learn About Sales or Special Offers (49%)
  2. To Learn About Products (45%)
  3. To Get Customer Support (5%)

I’ll continue to share whatever I find on improving your ROI through social media.

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Monday, February 8th, 2010

If Facebook Were a Country It Would be the 3rd Largest in the World

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Numbers are so fascinating — I just realized that if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world (see rankings below).

For your business, it begs some of the following questions:

  • Are you and your business prioritizing Facebook high enough?
  • If you’re a U.S. business, should Facebook be your third priority (after China & India) in terms of emerging markets?)
  • Who’s got more Internet users: Facebook or China or India?
  • Who would you rather have as your customer-base: every person in the United States or every member of Facebook?
  • Will Facebook rival China & India as a supplier to Walmart?
  • Facebook is often described as closed — will Google face the same challenge of indexing Facebook content as it has indexing content of China?

Top 20 Countries in the World (by population)

  1. China[5] 1,335,720,000
  2. India 1,176,791,000
  3. facebook_logoFacebook? 400,000,000

  4. United States 308,639,000
  5. Indonesia 231,369,500
  6. Brazil 192,449,000
  7. Pakistan 168,679,000
  8. Bangladesh 162,221,000
  9. Nigeria
  10. Russia
  11. Japan 127,470,000
  12. Mexico 107,550,697
  13. Philippines 92,226,600
  14. Vietnam 85,789,573
  15. Germany 81,757,600
  16. Ethiopia 79,221,000
  17. Egypt 77,834,000
  18. Iran 74,196,000
  19. Turkey 72,561,312
  20. Dem. Rep. of Congo 66,020,000

Source: Wikipedia & Facebook reports

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Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Everyone Will Relate To This: Twitter Tips for Beginners

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You’ve likely heard of Twitter by now…seeing as 50 million+ people have signed up to try this service that let’s you type in 140 character messages (tweets).

I signed up for Twitter almost a year ago but have only recently started to get the swing of it (you can see  my profile at RobDunsonKelly).

Here are some answers to basic questions you might have as you get started on Twitter:

Twitter Tips for Beginners

Who Sees Your Twitter Posts?

Anyone can — whatever you type into the “What’s Happening?” field can be seen by anyone who is “following” you (see below) or even a stranger who finds your posting by browsing and searching Twitter (unless you send a “direct message” (see below).

How Do People “Follow” You on Twitter?

People may follow you simply because they saw your Twitter address in your auto-signature, on your LinkedIn or on your blog or you told them about it by phone or in person.

But most important is that people will follow you on Twitter through the valuable tweets you contribute.

As mentioned above, strangers will follow you as they find your tweets — so Twitter is a great way to meet new people.

Here’s a good Top-10 list of Ways To Increase Your Twitter Followers

How Do You Follow Other People on Twitter?

You can follow anyone on Twitter you want as long as you can find their Twitter name (which you can do by clicking “Find People” from the upper right hand of the Twitter home page and searching them by name (even if their Twitter name is not their actual name).

When you first sign up for Twitter, it will ask you if you’d like to import your email addresses into Twitter and see who of your contacts is on Twitter (and then you can automatically follow them all or just select ones).

You can also follow people you don’t know whether it be a celebrity like Britney Spears or Bill Gates – go to TwitterHolics to find the most popular Tweeters — or a random stranger you find browsing through some of the Twitter lists.

Is All This Following Mutual — Can I Unfollow Someone Any Time?

Unlike LinkedIn or Facebook, Twitter does not require that two people follow each other. In other words, you can follow a celebrity like Bill Gates and he does not have to follow you.

How Do You Send a Private Twitter Message (also called a Direct Message)?

If you want to type a message to someone on Twitter (and have only them see it), you type the letter “d” (for “direct”) immediately before their Twitter name (note: you can only do this to someone who is following you).

Check out here for more on How You Send a Private Message.

How Does ReTweeting Work?

If you see a tweet that you think your followers will find valuable, then you can retweet it by clicking the Retweet icon next to the tweet (that Tweet will now show up on the list of tweets that your followers will see).

Check out this link for more on How ReTweeting Works.

Hash-Tagging Your Tweets (or How To Get Your Tweets Grouped With Other Like-Tweets)

The Twitter community came up with its own way to categorize Tweets called “hash-tagging.”

So, if you want your Tweet to be grouped with other like Tweets (so that they can be found by Twitter’s search engine or by other sites such as HashTags.org, you simply add a “#” symbol before a word in your Tweet.

For example, if you were going to an industry conference called the “Awesome Summit,” you could do a tweet that says: “I’m headed over to the #AwesomeSummit” and then your tweet will be grouped with anyone else’s tweet that also tagged “AwesomeSummit.”

That way, you and the other folks who have that hash-tag in common can more easily find each other.

Twitter provides lists of popular hash-tagged terms.

Here’s a list of tweets about the subject Warren Buffett.

The Main Things I Use Twitter For in Business:

To Mention or Praise Someone Else on Twitter

To mention someone, you simple type the @ sign before their Twitter name into the “What’s Happening?” field on Twitter

So, for example, if you wanted to refer to me in your Twitter post, you would say something like: “Congrats to @RobDunsonKelly on his useful blog.” ;)

If one of your followers clicks on the “@RobDunsonKelly” then they will see my Twitter page with all my most recent posts

note: the person you mention can see that you mentioned them through the right-hand side of their Twitter home page (or by using one of a number of tools such as TweetDeck).

To Share Links to Web Pages

Twitter can be a more efficient way to reference a Web page than the traditional method of email since it’s faster for you to do (you don’t have to type in the recipients names into Twitter) and it is then searchable by the Twitter community (your email isn’t searchable by others).

To reference a page on the Web using Twitter, you can: A) Paste in the URL into the “What’s Happening?” field on Twitter (e.g. @RobDunsonKelly wrote an interesting article on Twitter Tips at http://robdkelly.com/blog/social-media/twitter-tips-for-beginners).

This is a fine approach but since Twitter allows you only 140 characters (including spaces), you won’t be able to fit some URls in (my previous example is 134 characters so it just made it).

How to Shorten a URL

To shorten a URL, you can use a URL shortening service such as bit.ly or tinyurl.com. I prefer bit.ly since its URLs are shorter and it also provides analytics (so you can see how many people click on the URL you put up on Twitter).

To shorten a URL on bit.ly, for example, just go to http://bit.ly and type the URL you want shortened into the field at the top and then bit.ly will provide you with a shorter URL (which will forever point to the original URL you wanted to share (unless bit.ly were to go out of business and screw the people who have shortened hundreds of millions of link).

There are also services such as TweetDeck which will automatically shorten a URL for you (you just type in the original URL and TweetDeck will shorten for you using bit.ly, TinyURL or another URL shortening service you choose).

I Post Links to Jobs Using Twitter & bit.ly

I’ve found it super-useful to refer to job postings I know about using Twitter/bit.ly — it’s quick and I can then see how many people clicked on the URL and where they came from (Twitter versus LinkedIn or Facebook (assuming I posted the job there too which I often do).

Cool Way To Read (or Post) All Your Status Updates/Streams From One Place

Finally, if you use more than one of the following social networks: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace, you may want to try one a tool such as TweetDeck or HootSuite or Seesmic.

These tools can allow you to both read and post through multiple social networks at once!

I use TweetDeck which requires you to download software to your hard drive. HootSuite is a competing tool that offers a little less functionality than TweetDeck but it is Web-based so it can be used by you on any computer that has Web access.

Check out this video that gives you a quick demo of TweetDeck, HootSuite as well as two other related tools called NetVibes and Ping.fm…Seesmic is another player in this space though they’re not in the video.

And if you want to follow me on Twitter, just go to RobDunsonKelly and click “follow.”

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Friday, December 11th, 2009

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan

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I met Nadja Specht recently — she runs a social media marketing company for small busineses.

I asked her some questions to help us figure out how to create a social media marketing plan.

Social Media Marketing Nadja Specht

Social Media Marketing Nadja Specht

Q: Let’s start off with your definition of social media marketing, Nadja.

I would like to start out by breaking the term down into its two components: social media and marketing.

So what is marketing? It is the systematic approach to generating interest in your products and services.

You start out with strategic questions such as:

  • “Who is my ideal customer?”
  • “What is my competition doing?”
  • “What should be my overall message?”

Then you decide which tactics to use (print, TV, online etc.).

What about social media?

Social media sums up the suite of tools and features that are available online to share information and collaborate with peers.

Now, what is the result if you combine the two?

Social media marketing is best illustrated by highlighting the following three steps:

1.  Integrating with the overall marketing plan

Social media marketing starts out with the integration into the overall marketing plan. It has to follow the same strategic direction that was developed in the overall marketing plan (remember the marketing questions above?).

2.  Deciding on the right social media tools

A key element of social media marketing is to decide which social media tools should be used. This depends heavily on the specific situation of each business, which should be reflected in the marketing plan.

Not only do you need to decide on the right tools, but also on the right sequencing and how they interact with each other in your social media ecosystem.

3.  Creating a community

Now that you have decided on which tools to use, based on your integrated marketing plan, the next task is to identify the right content and format that your audience is looking for.

Again, this needs to be in line with your overall messaging. But be aware that once the content is out, it takes on a life of its own.

That’s my long-winded explanation of what social media marketing is!

Q: Should all businesses have some type of social media marketing plan?

Yes…definitely.

However, the extent of the social media marketing plan might be very different from one company to another.

Take a company that manufactures and sells wheel-chairs to elderly people as an example.

If studies show that their ideal customer base are not tech-savvy with only 30% being online (illustrative number), then your social media marketing plan might be almost none existent.

However, you need to go through the full exercise of marketing planning and social media planning in order to come up with that conclusion.

In addition, a few years from now the situation might be very different, so you should lay some social media groundwork for the next generation of wheel-chair users.

Q: What social media marketing strategies are effective for a business to grow, profit or organize?

There is really no single perfect strategy – it all depends on the specific situation of each business. The strategy will flow out of your overall marketing plan.

Q: Would you share some basic social media marketing tactics that businesses could do right away?

While you work on developing your social media marketing plan – which everyone should start right away – start doing the following things:

1) Make any existing content that you already have online shareable

The best way to do this is by adding a share button from AddThis . This is a button that allows a visitor to use dozens of different forms (email, Twitter, Facebook, bookmark, etc.) to share the content they are  reading on your website.

Don’t worry – it is very clean and simple to use. You just have to get the code from the AddThis website and add it wherever you want on your website.

Have a look at my website for an example. Please note that there are a variety of providers that offer share buttons e.g. ShareThis, Addtoanny and more.

2) Start writing a blog

What’s key is that you develop a repository of valuable information that people will find when they search for a specific topic on the internet. Blogs are a great tool for doing this.

Even if you want to hold off with installing a blog on your website, start writing content for your future blog anyway and save the blog posts on your computer for right now.

A blog becomes basically more of a traffic generator for your “main” website pages that include information about your services and products.

For example, an immigration attorney that specializes in helping Mexican immigrants should start writing a regular blog about issues and new laws concern his client base.

When someone goes on the internet and searches for answers in that field, they will very likely end up on his blog.

3)  Play around with it

Theory only gets you so far with social media. To truly grasp the magnitude and potential of the various social media tools, you have to experience it for yourself.

So start setting up personal accounts for all the major tools (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) and play around with them.

Do it on a regular basis for a couple of months and you will start to get a feel for how this world works.

With some experience, you will be much better equipped to decide which tools to use for your business.

Q: When we had coffee, you mentioned a software tool called Hoot Suite — would you describe what that allows?

HootSuite started out as a web based twitter application that developed into a full fledged social media management tool. HootSuite recently started integrating Facebook and LinkedIn.

Now you can manage profiles, schedule updates and track clicks for all three major social media tools conveniently from one interface.

A variety of neat little features come with HootSuite such as link shortening, tracking of clicks on your individual updates (if they include a link), multi-column view and more.

A key element of social media success is to be very productive during a pre-determined period of time you spend on it each day.

It is easy to get sucked into it and spend half a day on checking tweets, wall posts and more. Hence productivity suites such as HootSuite are a must.

Q: Since you run a social media marketing agency, I’m curious, when do you think businesses should outsource their social media marketing to a firm likes yours (versus doing it in-house)?

There are three scenarios where I recommend outsourcing your social media activities:

1.  You have no talent in-house and don’t plan to hire someone (and you are not inclined to learn all the details yourself).

2.  You have no time to dedicate to social media or think that your time is better spent on some other parts of your business

3.  You don’t enjoy social media and basically have to force yourself to learn about it and to actively participate and grow your social media ecosystem.

You might be surprised that I don’t mention cost as a key motivator for outsourcing. With social media it is all about quality!

Think about it: your brand is shaped and sharpened by your social media activities — you directly interact with customers, prospects and potential advocates.

Therefore this is an area that you don’t want to outsource to the lowest bidder, but to someone that truly understands the social media ecosystem and is willing to learn all about your business.

Q: What are some secrets of social media marketing that you’ve learned that you believe most businesses don’t know?

I would like to sum it up in one word – “Patience.”

Business owners need to be aware of the following points when starting their social media journey:

  • It takes time to build and grow a community.
  • You might not see an ROI right away.
  • You need to be truly committed to it
  • It’s not a sales vehicle

Q: Do you have a favorite social media marketing blog you read (other than your own)?

Mashable is definitely the authority out there on social media. I receive their daily digest to stay on top of what new developments are on the horizon.

It’s definitely not a blog for the social media novice and requires some pre-existing knowledge, however  everyone should be able to get there fairly quickly.

Q: Your firm Nuvota provides a number of social marketing services. Would you describe them and tell people how they can get in touch with you?

Sure! So as it relates to social media, we provide the following three types of services:

1) Social Media Planning DIY Kit

We specifically developed a DIY (do-it-yourself) kit for business owners that would like to do the social media planning themselves and just need a structured guide.

Our DIY kit ensures that you think through all the key questions and end up with a very tangible and measurable social media plan.

2) Social Media Coaching

This 6-week program is designed for the complete social media novice who prefers to interact with a social media coach.

In weekly 60-minute one-on-one sessions, we will teach you all the key social media fundamentals you need to know and guide you through the completion of your own social media plan.

3) Social Media Outsourcing

Here we offer to take complete ownership of your social media activities.

First we develop a social media plan that we validate with you. From there we implement the various social media tactics (Facebook page, Twitter account etc.) and maintain them on a regular basis.

Each week you will receive a detailed report on what’s happening in your social media ecosystem (what people are saying about your brand, how many people became your fans, etc.).

We are also currently offering a free report titled “Top 50 social media tools every business should know about.”

For any questions you can best reach me at nadja.specht@nuvota.com.

Thanks, Nadja!

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Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Why The Home Page Is Dying & What To Do About It

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The homepage used to represent the online focus of a brand, establishing the point of first contact for the consumer and allowing the company to establish a digital presence.

This is no longer the case.

With increased fragmentation among traditional media channels and even within the content itself, companies must adapt new strategies to best suit the ever-evolving online world.

Given the number of web properties available to consumers, they are now more likely to land on a company web page from another web destination.

Thesis Author Daniel Neukomm

Thesis Author Daniel Neukomm

In fact, as of 2008 75% or more of corporate web traffic originates from a source other then their own homepage (Schmitt, 2008).

This is largely due to the emergence of Blogs, Social Sites, Search and RSS feeds as primary feeder points for almost all information on the web (Schmitt, 2008).

One important implication of this is the decline in premium pay sites, such as Times Select.  This was dismantled in 2007 as a result of the overwhelming traffic it was generated stemming from large numbers of links from blogs referencing articles.

According to paidcontent.org, they walked away from nearly $10 million in annual revenue to refocus their revenue generation strategy around advertisements rather then subscription service.

While this trend is affecting all brands none are as adversely impacted as major TV networks that are desperately trying to lock in content distribution deals with video portal sites such as You Tube and Yahoo! Videos.

While TV networks are leading the charge away from homepages, largely due to the increasing demand for more instant and relative info, companies will most likely not see the return of the homepage in the near future if ever.

Digital marketing agency Razorfish reported at the end of 2008 that more then 70% of consumers originate their web experience from a search portal, while 60% start form customized start pages and 56% from RSS feeds.

Given the decline of the homepage, there are four important implications for marketers which must be considered:

1) Traffic Distribution Metric

This key metric should be established to measure all traffic in (via search, referrals, or direct) and out of the homepage in light of the various points of origin prior to, and destinations after landing on the homepage.

Razorfish suggests that a key benchmark is 65% of all traffic ending up on pages other then the homepage itself should originate from places other then the home landing page.  This standard has been adopted as the norm for socially savvy websites and will quickly become the standard in which to compete for traffic.  (Schmitt, 2008)

2. Every page is the homepage

Due to increased access to all pages on a site stemming from fragmented points of origin, each page must be treated as if it is the primary landing page.

More specifically, there is an increased chance that consumers will land on any page within the site due to referrals, blogs and search, so greater attention is needed to ensure that the consumers first point of contact with the brand is clean and well presented.

The clarity of content and access to other aspects of the site should be accessible on all pages. (Schmitt, 2008)

3. Web 2.0 Toolbar

Given the need for content distribution, all pages should incorporate a toolbar that facilitates viral distribution.

Applications that enable such mechanisms include Digg and Reddit and should also be used to distribute video content if available to sites such as You Tube and Facebook, broadening the scope of reach as much as possible.

Linked content appears higher on Google powered search results then non-linked content further justifying this web 2.0 integration.(Schmitt, 2008)

4. Performance Tracking

Measurements of success are now dictated by so many different syndicated content locations that it is important to measure the success of websites from all angles. Emails, Applications, downloads, blog links and search results all occur off site but are still valuable in determining and segmenting ROI. (Schmitt, 2008)

As online media becomes more inherently dynamic and new channels emerge, the strength of the homepage will be continually diluted.  As such, markets must adapt to newer, more disruptive consumer behaviors and expectations.

Increased media channel fragmentation driving the decline of the homepage can be attributed to the rise in search and social media.

The combination and power of these two channels is driven by the rise in user-generated content flooding the web – this will only continue as consumers develop increased comfort with technology as it becomes cheaper, faster and more accessible.

How will your company adapt to the new digital landscape?

Note: The above is an exercpt from a thesis written by Daniel Neukomm.  A source for the excerpt was Schmitt, G. (2008). “White Paper: Does the home page still matter? Why distribution trumps destination for publishers and advertisers.” San Francisco: Avenue A Razorfish.

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Thursday, November 19th, 2009

How to Leverage Social Media For Your Business

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Social media is changing the way consumers interact with information and products…and it’s likely going to change your business.

One person specializing in social media for business is Sacha Cohen, CEO of Grassfed Media, an integrated communications company that serves green and socially responsible companies.

Grassfed Media CEO Sacha Cohen

Grassfed Media CEO Sacha Cohen

Her clients have included National Geographic, The Washington Post, and AARP.

Sacha was kind enough to answer some questions regarding social media and business.

Q: Here’s a lob-ball question to start us off with: would you define social media for us?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Generally, it refers to user-generated content (blogs, video, social networking sites, etc) that enables people to interact, share information, and communicate online.

Here’s a cool little video that illustrates the concept of social media better than I could ever explain in a few words: Social Media in Plain English.

Q: Would you give us a little “Social Media 101″ on the top few social media tools (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) — and how a business should participate in each?

I’m going to point you to Mashble’s Social Media 101 Guides which has, for example, these how-to tutorials and many more:

What I will say is that no matter what forum you are participating in or what tool you are using, becoming familiar with the etiquette and conventions of each is critical.

Chris Brogan, who is something of a social media god, offers this excellent Twitter Etiquette Guide.

Q: Your firm provides social media marketing services for socially conscious businesses — would you elaborate on challenges a business might face that you can help them with?

The social media universe is constantly changing and evolving. I’ve found that many businesses are overwhelmed by this new world; I help them navigate through it.

The other challenge is having enough bandwidth to successfully engage through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. They can all be huge time-sucks if you’re not careful.

On the other hand, they can be extremely useful for connecting to customers, product development, and marketing-it’s a matter of focusing on goals and staying on message.

Q: Whose job within a business is it to set social media strategy?

There’s no one-size-fits-all, but it’s usually a collaboration between marketing, PR, and customer service.

Q: What do you think are important new social media trends happening right now?

Here  are three:

  1. Social media for social good (e.g. Fledgling Wine)
  2. Mobile and local social media (e.g. Four Square)
  3. Mass mingling

Q: Would you list examples of businesses using social media most effectively?

Love this one. Here are my top picks: Zappos, Virgin America, and Starbucks. As for non-profits, I’d have to say the Nature Conservancy and Share Our Strength.

Q: You mentioned that you used social networking to increase conversion 17% for one of your clients — what can you tell us about how that worked?

Actually, it wasn’t a client. It was a company I worked for full time. We were able to increase conversion by introducing product reviews and rating with help from a company called Bazaarvoice.

Customers want to know what other customers think; they want real, unbiased opinions. That’s what we delivered and it was a huge success.

Senior management was very resistant at first, but by showing them the research and best practices from other companies, they eventually saw the light.

Q: How do you see social media and public relations working together to grow a business?

Honestly, these days, you really can’t have one without the other. People are talking about your product and company, whether you know it or not.

The questions is: Are you going to ignore the conversation or join it?

Q: What are Top Essential Tools You Recommend for Twitter? (this was added after the original Q&A)

  1. TweetDeck — This is a must-have Twitter application. It can help you manage multiple Twitter accounts, keep track of mentions and friends, help you find other people to follow, and more.
  2. Twitter Grader — Find out how you stack up to other Tweeters in your area.
  3. TwitPic — Easily upload photos to Twitter via your phone or the web.
  4. Twellow — You’ve signed up for Twitter. Now what? Find people who share common interests on this Twitter directory.
  5. Qwitter — Are you posting good content? Keep track of who is unfollowing you with this clever notification tool.

Q: Thanks, Sacha! If someone wanted to get in touch with you, how should they do so?

They can email me at sacha@grassfedmediadc.com or call me at 202-234-0104.

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