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Social real estate brokerage – the vision [ideas from 2008]

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reach out and blog someoneThe Setup: Brokers around the country have had to adopt the idea that their agents are free agents and have big mouths- they like to blog, they want to know what it is, how to do it, and in many cases are attacking it from all directions.

This article was first published on AgentGenius.com on June 08, 2008.

Conferences around the country are absorbing eager agents in high numbers to teach them how to reach their markets in more social ways, and blogging is a fantastic start. Brokers have resorted to flying in folks (even from Agent Genius) to teach their agents the basics as a part of their training- I think this is fantastic, but Brokers are missing a big opportunity to blend this into a part of their overall reputation management, and bolstering their own social credibility.

Listen Up BIG Brokers

Consider an inner office opportunity to provide blogging as an outlet service within your markets. How you ask? Simple. Multi-Author Office Blogs.

Imagine a 20 person office managing a unique city blog. Twenty unique personalities that can log into the wordpress backend while doing floor time and blog about something going on in relation to their niche.

As most offices have agents that specialize in various niches, neighborhoods, high end, first home buyers, and others, it stands to reason that providing them a platform to reach out socially to their markets to demonstrate the strength of their office, brand, or team with your marketing dollars behind it as the incentive.

Here’s How it Would Work

  • Create an office wordpress sub domain, for example views.c21centercity.com
  • Give it a web2.0 neighborhood flavor, nothing overly branded- make it subtle
  • Create simple guidelines, define the mission, what the focus of the blog is-neighbor driven
  • The team would include anyone interested from the office including the office manager
  • Keep the articles rich in information for consumers, focus on longtail searches, not keywords
  • Offer tips, advice, city happenings, and other creative ideas
  • Keep the blog fresh, but do not schedule the bloggers. Instead, have them write advance articles
  • Your office manager can feed the advance articles on slow office days
  • Create a blogroll that allows for immediate contact, but never blog about new listings- instead
  • Have new listings feed on the sidebar
  • Don’t sell
  • Create opportunities to inform rather than close- after all, you’re demonstrating office knowledge

By Far, This List Doesn’t Cover Everything

You should be getting the overall feel of what I am describing, and you should understand that the natural graduation from the office blog you create will be the agents creating their own blogs, but that’s okay. Your focus is your office, and brand- as your agents become comfortable with blogging, let go of the reins, allow it to grow and blossom into what it wants to be. Always avoid the tendency to be political or competitive in your market as losing focus on these things may tell your potential clients that your focus isn’t them.

Humanizing Your Brokerage

Behind that Gold jacket are consumers with licenses that are professional relationship builders. You cannot avoid this valuable opportunity in which to allow these sharp professionals to soften those hard edges of a giant brand.

Socialize Your Brand

When creating your wordpress blog, don’t forget to encourage your agents to create Twitter, and Facebook accounts. Allow your agents professional feeds to be fed via RSS into your wordpress sidebar under contact us. Over time, you’re building trusted relationships and unique opportunities for the client to reach out and touch you, rather than needing to reach out and mail them.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Barry Cunningham

    June 8, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Shhhhhhhhhh…Let them be. Let them flounder and succumb. Most don’t believe in it anyway and true Darwinism shall prevail. We, as are many, are blogging, and SEO’g the heck out of our blogs and by the time they decide to do something and then have the lawyers okay it,a nd then give their agents all the guidelines they don’t want them doing..it’ll be all over.Before they know it we’ll own the market share and they won’t be able to respond.

    You here, INman, BHB, 4realz..we on our show…have long sounded the bell. They did not respond and let’s count them out and show those who DO want to succeed just how to do it.

    So SHHHHHH!

  2. Teresa Boardman

    June 8, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Benn- I think this works out better for the brokerage than for the individual blogger. I like to advertise my own brans.

  3. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    It’s still smart business.

  4. Broker Bryant

    June 8, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    OK my comment has now been deleted twice because I can’t get past the math question. I KNOW that 4+6 is 10 but unfortunately the system doesn’t agree. I guess that’s my clue to not let my cat out of the bag:)

  5. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Those pesky (but thank goodness they’re there) plugins, sorry Bryant.

  6. Teresa Boardman

    June 8, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Very smart for the brokers and if I ran an office I would do just as you say and get those agents blogging away. As an agent I would keep my own blog and am not sure I would just the brokers blog for more than a link. Sometimes we take a new idea or piece of technology and use it in old ways. The broker blog would be like the broker web site in that it would look like an obituary page with all those out of date pictures and would be covered with broker logos because that is who they are and what they do.

  7. Barry Cunningham

    June 8, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    C’mon BB…you know you were using Poinciana math..:)

  8. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Teresa, true and false on old fashioned. I addressed it, and if they chose to operate in a 1.0 way through a 2.0 venue it will shine through like sunlight into a dark hole- my advice to them is to take my advice- do it my way, not theirs.

    This concept would also work for the local blog of a mobile brokerage as a device to generate web opportunities.

  9. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Angles – the office agent who may be basically a no name on the street (if they work it correctly) will benefit from the influx of marketing dollars by the broker and could potentially become a household name socially. I think there are many many ways an agent could expand their voice locally by use of the brokerage blog. Imagine the longtail local searches with your name on them in with such a high ranking blog.

  10. Matthew Rathbun

    June 8, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Great starting point for brokers. I was just writing a post about Brokers who still aren’t getting it… I feel it’s the responsibilities of those who knowledgeable to share with those who aren’t. It will make the industry, as a whole, be better received by the consumer. Not every agent is meant to be a social media god, but everyone should know about the tools that are effecting the industry.

  11. Teresa Boardman

    June 8, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Benn – yes I got your point, it is just that I have seen some broker blogs and they are not thinking outside the box but merely applying their old models to blogs. On some level I beleive that for marketing small is the new big (to quote Seth Godin) and that an individual has an advantage over an office full of bloggers. To me the very essence of the kind of blogging I do is my voice, which is a conversational tone written on a log that looks like St. Paul without looking commercial. I have seen it imitated but it doesn’t work that way.

  12. Daniel Rothamel

    June 8, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    This is a very good issue to address, and not a moment too soon. I think I remember reading something recently from Jim over at the Real Estate Tomato about launching a brokerage blog. I think he has created a platform that will do it.

    We are doing exactly this in our brokerage, but since we are only 3 (related) agents, I’m not sure if we count. Although, if we were to ever add agents, you can bet your bottom dollar that we would be doing exactly what you are talking about. Sure, agents would be free to maintain their own blogs, but getting everyone to contribute on the brokerage blog would be a great thing. Heck, you could even link to all of you the blogs of your respective agents and pass around the Google juice.

    Great idea, I’m sure it will lead to even better discussion, but when will we see it actually happen?

  13. Bill Lublin

    June 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Benn – You read my mind.

    We have had only one or two agents out of several hundred even think about blogging, and many of them were unclear aboput who to write for or what to write about. As a result, there was lot of conversation without direction and little execution.

    We’ve just started setting up the structure for a Company MU Blog to create some authors in our agency and to help some of the new agents find their voices. Once we introduce them to web 2.0, those who wish to will be able to create their own brand, and in the meantime, we’ll create an on-line community (hopefully like the one here) where people can express themselves, grow their businesses, and create an online camaraderie while learning and teaching about themselves, the company and the industry. It should help the company, the agents, and the communities we serve.

    Thanks for the outline. I have already sent it to my marketing director who has been charged with implementing the plan (with a little help from me)

  14. Daniel Rothamel

    June 8, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Broker Bryant,

    Don’t feel bad, AG was inexplicably black-listing all my comments for like two weeks back in the early days. It ain’t personal. 🙂

  15. Bill Lublin

    June 8, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    BTW I forgot to point out that Jay Thompson has just launched one for his firm as well.

  16. Ken Smith

    June 8, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Interesting idea, but I think you would have a very hard time getting agents to stay committed.

  17. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Ken, in every big office you have what I refer to as the desk daisys- they love the office, live in the office and love office things, typically, they’re the ones that love the office meetings, plan the office parties, and somehow manage to get every walk-in. I would wager the Daisys would pick up the slack!

    In offices the size of Jays or Daniels this will sizzle.

    Bill, if I can help, let me know.

    Daniel, can’t wait to see the finished product.

    as for Jay, I wasn’t aware, but I can’t wait to see what he cooks up.

    I’m not a reader of the re tomato (great blog themes though), nor seth godin, but he has cool book covers.

  18. Todd Carpenter

    June 8, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    A small boutique brokerage here in Denver does this.

    blog.liveurbandenver.com

    I agree with Teresa that, for the most part, agents would be best served to blog on their own. However, if you have a group of people who would only write one or two posts a month anyway, a group blog might be better for them.

    I think WordPress MU would be a ideal platform for a broker blog. Then each agent could have their own blog, but all of the posts would also show up on the main broker blog. Matt Fagioli of Diamond Dwellings worked with the Tomato to build their broker blogs with MU.

  19. Jay Thompson

    June 8, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    What you’re outlining here Benn is almost exactly what I’m envisioning Phoenix Real Estate Home to be. It’s brand new, and we’re just starting to add agents to the brokerage. Many are already well established bloggers and I suspect I may get some hesitation from our agents to post on PREH for fear of “diluting” their existing blogs.

    However, I think we can eventually turn it into a nice platform for all of us. Kind of a “the sum is greater than the parts” sort of thing.

    We’re still working on a “direction” for this particular site. There has to be a way to leverage it into additional exposure for us.

  20. Jay Thompson

    June 8, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Benn wrote: “as for Jay, I wasn’t aware, but I can’t wait to see what he cooks up.”

    Dude, you need to read Phoenix Real Estate Guy more often! 😉

  21. Benn Rosales

    June 9, 2008 at 12:00 am

    When I have personal time, I do, I swear. Rather than buy me beer next time I see you, how about a box of personal time.

  22. Benn Rosales

    June 9, 2008 at 12:01 am

    It’s 1am and I’m still working- gimmie a break!

  23. Jay Thompson

    June 9, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Benn, don’t get me wrong, I like you, a lot. But if I come across a box of personal time, I’m keeping it!

  24. Broker Bryant

    June 9, 2008 at 6:14 am

    OK let’s try again….where’s my calculator.

    I’ve recently launched a social netwrok for my market area. I’m not soliciting business on it but am usuing it to get more in touch with folks in my market. The business will come later. I’m also in the process of hiring agents and taking my company virtual. My virtual office is being set up as a social network with blogs, forum etc…

    So I completely agree with your post.

  25. Ken Smith

    June 9, 2008 at 9:43 am

    BB glad you got your calculator out, was wondering what you hadn’t shared before.

    Benn there are always those that sit around the office, but they still don’t like doing anything that smells of real work. They typically don’t need any income from their real estate “business” and just enjoy sitting around talking to whoever will listen. I think your idea is great, just think that most offices would have a hard time making this work.

  26. Paula Henry

    June 9, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Benn – I am thinking along the lines of BB – setting up a virtual brokerage. I can see great benefit in allowing agents to post to a company blog. I envision agents writing about local happenings and real estate in their area of expertise, giving online visitors a “true” look at neighborhoods and communities around the city. Therefore each agent would benefit from their effort.

    I’m not sure it will work. I have asked lenders and my team members to blog; they don’t. Statitics show not many agents continue a blog, if they even start.

    I’ll ask Jay after a couple of months.

  27. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    June 9, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    I would rather have my own blog and do my work. My broker would charge the agents for the leads or find some way to make some more money for the agents. That is just the way I see it.

  28. Benn Rosales

    June 9, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Eric, that is a huge concern and possibly the biggest reason I wrote the post- it would be a huge failure to go at it from any other direction then to stay local, stay human, and allow the agents to do what they do best – grow relationships.

  29. Janet

    June 17, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Excellent post. If only some of these old-school brokers would do 1/10th of your suggestions.

  30. Nicole Boynton

    July 28, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    We are working on just this sort of thing at https://SkyRealtyAustin.com and we have seen tremendous results. The key is finding a way to relate to your audience by blogging about areas and neighborhoods that you have in depth knowledge of and a passion about. Your blog will ring true with readers because your enthusiasm will shine through and provide a true “connection” to the reader. We have about 45 agents in our office that enjoy and specialize in different areas so it makes sense for us to blog about the parts of town we know and introduce them to our readers with our own personal stories. I am very lucky to be part of an office that is making Social Brokerage a reality and even better, they don’t charge you for the leads generated by the blogs! Check us out and if you are in Austin you should considering joining our team!

  31. Bryan Thompson

    January 11, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Benn, I see that the last comment on this article was from July 2008. I’m interested to know, have you seen a difference in the social brokerage idea since that time? Are there any markets where this may be better than others.

    I work for an association of Realtors in Missouri, and I would dare say 10-15% of our agents (because I work with them all the time) are actively engaged in social media as a part of their business – mostly Facebook. But I would say only 6% actually use it correctly and to its real potential.

    Are there some brokerages that have implemented these ideas?

  32. stephanie crawford

    February 2, 2011 at 2:21 am

    If I were to start a brokerage, I would do exactly what you are proposing here. And in a few years I may do just that. I’m curious if you could site any WP MU blogs that are already doing this well.

    My idea would be for each agent to have their own individual page (perhaps pages if they wanted them and were willing to customize) in addition to the main blog. The agents could point their vanity domains to their page if they were so inclined.

    I’d love to see a format where the entry page became “sticky” for the whole website. For instance, if a prospective client entered the website through Agent Anderson’s page, any IDX registration or contact inquiry would be routed directly to that agent. If they entered through the main page the inquiries could be rotated or sent to the broker for follow up depending on the neighborhood that prospect searched.

    Benn, have you seen anything like this in action?

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Business Marketing

Ghost Reply has us asking: Should you shame a recruiter who ghosted you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Ghost Reply will send an anonymous “kind reminder” to recruiters who ghost job candidates, but is the sweet taste of temporary catharsis worth it?

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Stressed woman at a laptop with hands on head, considering if she should send a Ghost Reply.

People hate to get “ghosted” in any situation, personal or professional. But for job seekers who may already be struggling with self-esteem, it can be particularly devastating. Ghost Reply is a new online service that will help you compose and send an email nudge to the ghoster, sending a “kind reminder” telling them how unprofessional it is to leave someone hanging like that.

Ghost Reply wants to help you reach catharsis in all of this stressful mess of finding a job. Almost all of the problems and feelings are compounded by this confounded pandemic that has decimated areas of the workforce and taken jobs and threatened people’s financial security. It is understandable to want to lash out at those in power, and sending a Ghost Reply email to the recruiter or HR person may make you feel better in the short term.

In the long run, though, will it solve anything? Ghost Reply suggests it may make the HR person or recruiter reevaluate their hiring processes, indicating this type of email may help them see the error of their ways and start replying to all potential candidates. If it helps them reassess and be more considerate in the future and helps you find closure in the application/interview process, that would be the ideal outcome on all fronts. It is not likely this will happen, though.

The Ghost Reply sample email has the subject line “You have a message from a candidate!” Then it begins, “Hi, (name), You’re receiving this email because a past candidate feels like you ghosted them unfairly.” It then has a space for said candidate to add on any personal notes regarding the recruiter or process while remaining anonymous.

I get it. It’s upsetting to have someone disappear after you’ve spent time and energy applying, possibly even interviewing, only to hear nothing but crickets back from the recruiter or HR person you interacted with. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s no bueno. We all want to be seen. We all want to be valued. Ghosting is hurtful. The frustration and disappointment, even anger, that you feel is certainly relatable. According to several sources, being ghosted after applying for a job is one of the top complaints from job seekers on the market today.

Will an anonymous, passive-aggressive email achieve your end? Will the chastened company representative suddenly have a lightbulb go off over their heads, creating a wave of change in company policy? I don’t see it. The first sentence of the sample email, in fact, is not going to be well received by HR.

When you start talking about what’s “unfair,” most HR people will tune out immediately. That kind of language in itself is unprofessional and is a red flag to many people. Once you work at a company and know its culture and have built relationships, then, maybe, just maybe, can you start talking about your work-related feelings. I believe in talking about our feelings, but rarely is a work scenario the best place to do so (I speak from experience). Calling it unprofessional is better, less about you and more about the other person’s behavior.

However, it’s unclear how productive Ghost Reply actually is. Or how anonymous, frankly. By process of deduction, the recipient of the email may be able to figure out who sent it, if it even makes it through the company’s spam filters. Even if they cannot pinpoint the exact person, it may cast doubts on several applicants or leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth. It sounds like sour grapes, which is never a good thing.

There may be any number of reasons you didn’t get the job offer or interview, and they may or may not have something to do with you. Recruiters answer your burning questions, including why you may have been ghosted in this recent article in The American Genius.

Ultimately, you will never know why they ghosted you. If it makes you feel better or at least see the issue from both sides, the amount of job candidates ghosting recruiters after applying and even interviewing is equally high. Some people simply either have awful time management skills or awful manners, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about that.

Focus on your own survival while job hunting, instead of these disappointing moments or the person who ghosts you. It will serve you better in the long run than some anonymous revenge email. There are other ways to deal with your frustration and anger when you do get ghosted, though. Try the classic punching your pillow. Try taking a walk around the block. If it helps to put your frustration into words, and it very well may, then do so. Write it on a piece of paper, then burn it. Or type it all in an email and delete it. For your own sake, do NOT put their email address in the “To” line, lest you accidentally hit “Send.”

The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to finding a better job fit for you.

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Business Marketing

Free shipping is everywhere… how can small businesses keep up?

[BUSINESS MARKETING] Would you rather pay less but still pay for shipping, or pay more with free shipping? They may cost the same, but one appeals more than the other.

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Person standing over pacakge, sealing with masking tape.

When it comes to competing with huge corporations like Amazon, there are plenty of hurdles that smaller businesses have to cross. Corporations can (and do) undercut the competition, not to mention garner a much larger marketing reach than most small businesses could ever dream of achieving. But this time, we want to focus on something that most people have probably chosen recently: Free shipping.

How important is free shipping to consumers? Well, in a 2018 survey, Internet Retailer discovered that over 50% of respondents said that free shipping was the most important part of online shopping. In fact, when given a choice between fast or costless shipping, a whopping 88% of those surveyed chose the latter option.

Part of this has to do with the fact that shipping costs are often perceived as additional fees, not unlike taxes or a processing fee. In fact, according to Ravi Dhar, director of Yale’s Center for Customer Insights, if it’s between a discounted item with a shipping fee or a marked up item with free shipping, individuals are more likely to choose the latter – even if both options cost exactly the same amount.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dhar refers to the economic principle of “pain of paying,” but the short answer is simply that humans are weird.

So, how do you recapture the business of an audience that’s obsessed with free shipping?

The knee jerk reaction is to simply provide better products that the competition. And sure, that works… to some extent. Unfortunately, in a world where algorithms can have a large effect on business, making quality products might not always cut it. For instance, Etsy recently implemented a change in algorithm to prioritize sellers that offer free shipping.

Another solution is to eat the costs and offer free shipping, but unless that creates a massive increase in products sold, you’re going to end up with lower profits. This might work if it’s between lower profits and none, but it’s certainly not ideal. That’s why many sellers have started to include shipping prices in the product’s overall price – instead of a $20 necklace with $5 shipping, a seller would offer a $25 necklace with free shipping.

This is a tactic that the big businesses use and it works. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

That said, not everyone can join in. Maybe, for instance, a product is too big to reasonably merge shipping and product prices. If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in, it’s also worth finding a niche audience and pushing a marketing campaign. What do you offer that might be more attractive than the alluring free shipping? Are you eco-friendly? Do you provide handmade goods? Whatever it is that makes your business special, capitalize on it.

Finally, if you’re feeling down about the free shipping predicament, remember that corporations have access to other tricks. Amazon’s “free” prime shipping comes at an annual cost. Wal-Mart can take a hit when item pricing doesn’t work out. Even if your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, take heart: You’re facing giants.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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Clock pointed to 5:50 on a plain white wall, well tracked during the week.

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and… hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care… that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well… probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

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