Digital Marketing and the Evolution of #Hashtags – Are You Hashtagging?

Over the last year in particular, social media optimisation (SMO) has become a staple in digital marketing.  It’s not enough to simply earn organic traffic through Google these days, and social signals are playing a bigger role than ever in Page Rank and assessing a website’s credibility. SMO has two main goals; creating high quality content that is valuable, attractive and useful, and then making that content as ‘shareable’ as possible. This will often mean putting share buttons at the end of posts along with other SMO tools that may seem rather obvious today. One such tool which is still overlooked is the #hashtag.  Hashtags are incredibly valuable in a number of ways, from plain growth hacking to local event organising and trendsetting.

In case you’re not sure what a #hashtag is or does

Feel free to skip this paragraph but I thought it best to define in clear terms what a hashtag actually is. If you’re not sure what a hashtag is, the easiest way to think of it is as a ‘file under’ label. For example, you’ll often see news items or popular televised events given a hashtag (e.g. #election2015) which a user can add to their post to ‘categorise’ it.  Other users can then search these hashtags to see what people have to say about a given issue. So, where did hashtags originate?

The origin of the #hashtag

Most people will probably associate hashtagging with Twitter, and rightly so. Hashtags first came into a being as a way of categorising tweets and creating ‘trends’, but the thing not a lot of people know is that Twitter itself had very little to do with the emergence of hashtags. They were, in fact, brought about by its users who were seeking ways to connect and share information. After a little while the company caught on and implemented hashtags into the application and thus the hashtag was born. These days it’s difficult to find a social network that doesn’t use hashtags (even Facebook who were staunchly opposed to the phenomena have now caught on).

Hashtag Do’s and Don’ts

The use of a hashtag really does depend on the social platform you are using, but generally the recipe for the success stays the same. Here are some great ways to use hashtags across Twitter and Facebook as examples:

  • Monitor existing trends and start new ones.  If you include a hashtag in your Tweet or status update, not only will you reach your direct follows, but also all of those users already engaged in that particular topic. Of course, starting a new hashtag is slightly more difficult and will require a little effort.
  • See what’s trending. This one is really for users or Twitter. In the application there’s a handy ‘trending’ screen with a filter, allowing you to see which topics are currently generating the most conversation across various regions and countries.  Using them can have benefits and bring some instant traffic, but be wary of the pitfalls which we’ll broach shortly…
  • Promote your events. This is a great way to generate ‘buzz’ around your events. You’ll often see TV shows doing the same now as a hashtag flashes up on screen encouraging people to join in the conversation and tweet. You can do the same with company or social events and advertise the hashtag to grow your traffic (and maybe even your followers).
  • Take advantage of ‘local search’.  A lot of people genuinely use Twitter to search for local services with #London or #NewYork. If your brand or service operates on a local level – why not take advantage of this and see what happens?

These are all great opportunities for a touch of growth hacking and a genuine way to boost your fan-base. But there are one or two things you really shouldn’t do concerning hashtags. Here are the biggest don’ts…

  • Don’t hijack hashtags. Seriously, this is one of the main offenders. If you see what’s trending and decide to get in on some the action by using a popular hashtag, make sure you’re making a relevant contribution! If you’re sharing something unrelated and clearly abusing the hashtag you’ll be seen as little more than a pesky spammer and will likely lose followers.  A fine example is #Aurora, which, at the time, was being used to discuss the tragic ‘Aurora shooting’ in Colorado – but Celeb Boutique had taken it upon themselves to use #Aurora in order to advertise Kim Kardashian’s new ‘Aurora Dress’. Needles to say, this was a terrible misstep and a PR nightmare. 
  • Be careful of things backfiring. A short while ago McDonald’s introduced the hashtag #McDStories, urging people to share their fun experiences at McDonald’s restaurants. What they got however, was an influx of abuse and embarrassing stories about people not liking their food. It took them a good while to move past that and at the time it was impossible to disassociate themselves from it! So be warned, once you open the floodgates the hashtag becomes the property of the community, and if you attach a big marketing campaign to it you’ll have to live with the consequences if things turn sour.
  • Don’t be ambiguous. This can be difficult, and we’re not psychic, but sometimes a word can become associated with something else after you’ve incorporated it as a hashtag and invested in your marketing strategy.

All in all, make sure you’re consistent and that you choose quality over quantity when hashtagging.  In this way, hashtags can almost become brands themselves! But never be afraid to experiment and explore to see what’s out there and don’t be afraid to promote away.

Why not follow Ted Nash on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus to read news and views on Digital Marketing, Growth Hacking and all things entrepreneurial? You can also contact Ted directly here

 

Surpass Yourself: Surprisingly Effective Biohacks We Can All Try

Biohacking, or ‘lifehacking’ is concerned with one thing: adjusting your daily habits and biological rhythms to increase your productivity and change the way you live.  The Apple founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, once commented that the biggest innovation of the 21st Century would be at the “intersection of biology and technology”.  This ‘wellness revolution’, as some described it, ties in perfectly with biohacking and its overall objectives.  Anyone familiar with growth hacking in marketing (see my notes here), will understand the dependency on facts and statistics to illustrate how effective certain techniques are at building a fan-base or reaching a certain audience.  Biohacking works via the same principle, and it’s experiencing an enormous surge in interest recently.  People have described improvements in mood, sleeping habits, stress levels and overall fitness, which are all attributed to simple yet specific ‘hacks’.  To help illustrate how effective (and how ‘outside the box’) biohacking can be, here are a few examples of successful hacks with explanations:

Intermittent eating patterns

It’s common knowledge these days that grazing throughout the day is good for us, rather than sitting down to heavy meals.  But how true is that? In actual fact, it’s not really backed up by much scientific evidence at all, and diets are still springing out of the wood work constantly, professing to make us feel better and help us lose weight.  Dave Asprey is connoisseur  of biohacking seeking to “maximise his biological potential”, and he’s suggested something different. Rather than eating at prescribed times, Asprey suggests we should eat only when hunger strikes.  This can lead to long periods without needing any food and is also referred to as ‘intermittent fasting’, but is more of an eating pattern than a diet as it has no direct rules.  Eating only when you feel hungry (like drinking only when you feel thirsty) is a proven way to accelerate fat loss, and improve protein synthesis and insulin sensitivity.

Check out Asprey’s impressive ‘Bulletproof’ website here for some really interesting advice!

Take a deep breath

Meditation and Yoga are excellent ways to combat stress and find inspiration.  Perhaps going one step further, Cullen Richardson, a devoted biohacker and entrepreneur, has started using meditation and breathing techniques to control his heat rhythm (visit his website here).  Using a bio feedback device (there are many on the market that will monitor your heart rate), he trained himself to gain awareness of how his heart responded to different breathing patterns.  He swears that over time he’s managed to slow his heartbeat and “slip into the zone” any time he needs to quickly relieve stress.

The Uberman

The Uberman is a type of polyphasic sleeping pattern designed to maximise your ‘awake time’ with zero impact on your health.  We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep but only REM sleep is actually needed for normal healthy functioning. We spend around 2 hours per night in REM sleep, and polyphasic sleepers think the rest is a little bit of a waste. Different sleeping patterns are used around the world (in Spain for example, people sleep less on an evening and instead take siestas during the day), and polyphasic techniques are being measured and sampled to see how they might benefit us – after all, regular sleeping patterns are more cultural than biological.  The Uberman is perhaps the more ambitious of patterns, which basically consists of six 20 minute naps throughout the day, equally seperated, which take the place of ‘core sleep’ giving you an incredible about of free time.  Obviously, different patterns suit different lifestyles, and we should allow ourselves at least a month to adjust a new sleeping schedule, but if you’re hoping to become more productive and fit more into your day, why not give it a go? There’s more information on polyphasic sleeping cycles on the lifehacker website here.

Ted Nash is a digital entrepreneur and believer in business and productivity. You can find him on Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook where you can talk to him about all the latest technology news, views and digital trends!

Growth Hacking in Content Marketing – Top Tips

There’s a great buzz around growth hacking in the content industry at the moment, and with good reason.  After all, content creation is all about engaging with audiences and converting clicks – and growth hacking absolutely adores clicks.  It makes sense that content development and growth hacking would eventually be departments working hand in hand, with one focused on gaining qualitative, brand-building audiences and the other geared toward spreading the word to as many people as possible.  Some argue that growth hacking is cynical or too broad, or that content marketing is to lacklustre in reaching audiences – well, meet content hacking. 

Creative thinking, ingenuity and vision that extends beyond the realm of traditional advertising is what companies need to fulfil their potential, and content hacking is a superb fusion of the old and new.  But where do you begin?

Guest Blogging is an excellent place to start.  While it can be time consuming and a little bit of a heavy grind, the results will be worth it if it’s done correctly.  One of the great success stories of guest blog content hacking is the Buffer app – a tool which allows easy sharing across a number of social media platforms from one friendly UI. Sure, there are others out there, but Buffer shot to the big leagues through guest posting and linking back to their app.  And that’s where the value of the guest post really lies – getting those high authority backlinks while also providing the publication and its readers something really useful.  The founder of Buffer was interviewed by the Search Engine Journal where he talks of his success with blogging.

Calls to action are an absolute necessity for any website or blog, particularly for gaining social media followers.  There’s a fantastic plug-in from Word Press known as WP Socialiser which creates floating share buttons throughout your site which scroll with the browser window.  You can also make it easier for the reader to engage with you via social media by adding a simple ‘click to tweet’ box. While there’s a simple WordPress plug-in for this also, there is a dedicated click to tweet site which has all the information you need to get a tweet box set up on any website.

Content marketing is on the rise, and so too is growth hacking.  It’s become more important than ever in the past year to get the absolute best from our content.  It’s no longer about ‘writing a good piece’ or merely connecting with a target audience, it’s about maximising reach, audience growth and making things popular – even viral.  A good content marketer in the age of growth hacking will be SEO minded, less concerned with style guides and more concerned with snappy headlines, data and opportunities for sustainable growth.  Definitely food for thought as you consider your options for growth…

For regular updates and tips relating to growth hacking, content and marketing, why not follow Ted Nash on Twitter or Facebook?

Push Notifications – Are We Entering A World of ‘Push Blindness’?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about push notifications in mobile apps as being the future of marketing – a huge step forward in the world of digital marketing and growth hacking – but what if it’s not all it’s cracked up to be? Push marketing has certainly earned a place among the elite digital marketers, those with deep pockets and the research to drive their campaign, but what are the limitation of push notifications in app marketing? Are we entering a world of ‘push blindness’?

What push notifications do.

First, let’s begin with a run down of the benefits of push notifications, and the empirical data we can extract from push integration. Typically, push notifications are said to increase customer engagement with a given app/service.  In fact, it has been reported that app users are twice as likely to engage with an application that delivers push notification to the status bar and alerts the user. This notification could be anything from an eBay “item dispatched” notification to a “Joe Bloggs commented on your status” from Facebook.

What data can we get from push notifications?

All growth hackers love numbers. Empirical methods of gathering users and growing audiences – measuring traffic, clicks and conversions and refining tactics to maximise all three. Surprisingly, few businesses choose to actually analyse their push notification data, but those that do will get two key pieces of information. Firstly, they’ll be able to find out whether their app is being launched via a push notification (and therefore whether they’re doing their job) and secondly, which of their push campaigns are working and engaging users (each push ‘campaign’ will be given a unique ID so businesses can tell which notifications are hitting the sweet spot).

Why we should be VERY careful with push notifications.

Like most things, when something proves marginally successful there’s an inevitable bandwagon of marketers that jump on board, to the point where if you aren’t using push notifications you’re told you’re lagging behind.  But wait a moment. Push notifications ARE useful, but they need to be utilised in context and serve a genuine purpose, otherwise they are essentially spam.  Even if you deliver push notification with something genuine in mind, the fact that every smartphone user will have piles of apps throwing notifications at them is likely to make them feel frustrated and annoyed.  There are some things business can do avoid this generation of encroaching ‘push blindness’ but on the whole, it’s becoming a very ‘walking on thin ice’ style of marketing.  In other words, push notifications are an incredibly personal thing; you’re talking about basically alerting a user and bothering with something directly by popping up on the most personal of things, their mobile phone.  Adverts, spam or hollow attempts to get them to click through to your app just aren’t going to cut it.  And even if you succeed on getting them to click through, if the notification wasn’t worthy they’re likely to fish for a way to stop them or just remove your app altogether.

Research shows that if a user hasn’t consented to push notifications in the first place, they are likely to go as far as uninstalling the app to prevent them.  This gives clear indication that push notifications aren’t the holy grail of growth hacking like some have speculated in the past, and a clear sign that we need to evolve and change with the technology and whims of the market.  So what’s the answer?

Moderation in push marketing.

Let’s just not get carried away and play into this notion of ‘push blindness’, lowering the benchmark and cheapening the medium altogether – something which push is certainly vulnerable to as a mass marketing tactic. To last and stand the test of time, make sure you present your target users with clear and concise options – many of them may want push notifications, whereas some of them, no matter how helpful you think they’ll be, won’t.  It’s simple – mobile marketing is a consumer led area, and perhaps more individual and subject to unique preference than any other. Give the user control and they’re far likely to keep your app and use your services.  You’ll also get a more accurate review of how successful your push campaigns are.

Thanks to Chris Lewis for his contributions and ideas for this post! For more news and views on push marketing and other growth hacking strategies, why not follow me on Twitter or Facebook?

What is ‘Growth Hacking’ and how do you become a better Growth Hacker…?

In various circles throughout the internet ‘growth hackers’ are placed in the same camp as marketers, but there is one key difference that many fail to address.  Would it surprise you to learn, for example, that many successful companies keep their growth hackers separate from their marketing department? In a previous post I touched upon the definition of growth hacking, but for the sake of this post let’s have a quick review.  Traditional marketing is concerned with exposing a company through low-tech means –  so paid advertising, representing the brand of a company and shaping its public image.  

What has become known (perhaps unfortunately?) as ‘growth hacking’ is concerned with one thing and one thing only – growing a company’s following.  In order to do this some high-tech strategies are often employed which are measured, empirical and usually inexpensive.  Growth hackers love numbers, and they love building a base of ‘followers’ to strengthen a company using all manner of tools from viral videos to social media manipulation – it’s no bad thing though. It’s about making your audience as large as possible, and many companies you probably use every day incorporated growth hacking into their marketing strategies before they made it big. Let’s look at some examples of classic growth hacking:

  • PayPal. When PayPal first hit the scene they offered a $10 cash reward to new customers and to the customer who referred them.  This is an example of a pretty simple growth hacking technique which got PayPal on its feet and earned it millions of users. 
  • Hotmail. Many users will remember receiving an email from a user of Hotmail when it started out, with a little footer at the bottom which said something along the lines of ‘get your free mail account at hotmail’ with a link back.  It seems like a no-brainer these days and it’s a commonplace growth hacking method.
  • LinkedIn. When LinkedIn started out they ‘seeded’ the product with well connected movers and shakers in industries in order to pull in the general population. Now, an exciting LinkedIn profile is something to aspire to and be proud of.

How do you become a successful growth hacker?

The above are fairly simple, traditional examples of growth hacking.  But it really has no limitations and is something which is always moving and evolving.  There are some great tools around at the moment which can be used to hack followers, and one of the best is perhaps TweetAdder (something which I write about in more detail in my growth hacking notes here).  Growth hacking has really taken off in the world of smartphone & tablet apps where competition is becoming ludicrously fierce.  To many indy developers, it’s all about how much exposure and how big a following they can get using tools like TweetAdder and being completely on the pulse with social media.  To this end, it’s a great tactic to use TweetAdder to follow indy developers or those about to launch an app of their own. Finding people to follow based on keyword searches and then following dozens at a time is a great way to recruit – then you can lose the ones who aren’t following back.  Of course, Twitter is a small part of the wider world of growth hacking and the tactics that can be employed are wide, varied and changing constantly.  The trick is to focus on people and numbers – how can you reach the largest audience? How can you divert traffic back to your site? – but never lose sight of your main objective which should be to add value and offer something worthwhile.  After all, it’s no use recruiting people if they don’t stick around…

To find out more about growth hacking why not follow my blog?  You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus – feel free to get in touch!

Will the future of marketing success lie in Growth Hacking?

If you’re at all involved in the world of digital marketing you’ll no doubt have heard the term ‘growth hacking’ thrown around a little. It’s come to prominence since technologies like smartphones found their way into nearly every pocket in the country and marketing opportunities suddenly exploded. Things like mobile app marketing (interesting piece here on the benefits of push notifications) and people having constant access to emails and social media platforms have resulted in growth marketing boom. But what is growth hacking?

Defining Growth Hacking.

Growth hacking basically does away with traditional marketing methods and focuses primarily on the empirical gathering of relevant users – that is, users who have an interest, sign up and stick around for the long term. I say “empirical” because with growth hacking it really is all about the numbers and,  ”How quickly can we grow this business but keep a relevant and interactive user base?”.  Whereas more traditional marketing methods would involve paid advertisements and ‘getting the word out’, growth hacking uses measurable tools such as pay per click campaigns, blogs, emails and APIs which allow it to gain a statistical overview and insight into how a business should evolve its strategy. I guess you could think of growth hacking as more of a mindset than method.

How can growth hacking affect marketing?

Traditional marketing, while obviously effective once upon a time, can now seem rigid and limiting in certain circles.  There’s no doubt that paid adverts in widespread publications are a great way to get the word out about your business.  A press release can offer up important information about your business and help you bring in new leads, clients or visitors, but growth marketing really turns this on its head and becomes a lot more fluid in how it connects with audiences.  The real trick behind growth hacking is to offer your target audience something they want. A perfect example would be Instagram. Did you know that instagram actually started out as a location check-in app (similar to that of FourSquare)?  The reason it become a photo sharing community was because it registered that that was what its users wanted – so it changed its entire strategy and became one of the most utilised social media platforms in the world. Instagram changed their business based purely on customer feedback, statistics and usage patterns.  In other words, they moulded themselves to suit the needs of the masses – after all, people create marketplaces, not business. Traditional marketing may disagree.

How do get started with growth hacking

Remember, growth hacking is more a mindset than a specific set of marketing tools and methods, but there are some things you can do to help you get there.  Firstly, remember that growth hacking is internal while traditional marketing is external.  It’s a lot cheaper than traditional marketing and relies purely on facts, figures and numbers rather than status and reputation.  Instead of building your brand through spending and hoping like so many other businesses before you, consider targeting a particular user base through social media, or by putting a measurable email campaign together (MailChimp is a marvellous tool) and work at getting those people on board by offering them something valuable, unique and relevant. ‘Growth Hacking’ sounds negative, but it’s really just a more effective way of finding a way to engage with people, something which has perhaps been lost in various parts of the more traditional business communities today…

Marketing your app is getting more costly, but could pay dividends. Is it worth it?

Both Android and iOS app stores have experienced a veritable boom in the past few years. BusinessInsider.com report that one in five people across the world own a smartphone and they’re downloading everything from Flappy Bird and Temple Run to WhatsApp and Facebook with relentless enthusiasm.  With such a vast audience the marketing value is inherently obvious and mobile marketing companies are pouncing on the opportunity, not only by just selling app screen real estate but by marketing the apps themselves for developers.  As apps continue to grow in popularity and general use, filling in those train journeys and making life easier for people around the world, marketing them has become a lucrative (and costly) business.

One of the leading mobile app marketing companies are Fiksu, who use specific target and re-target marketing, multiple advertising platforms and social media optimisation to maximise the ‘success’ of an app in getting onto as many devices as possible.  To give things some kind of perspective, they carried out research in 2013 which indicated that the top 200 apps in the iOS store were attracting around 6 million downloads per day. This is a staggering market to tap into, and it’s getting more expensive for developers to acquire new users with marketing companies. The cost of acquiring a single user grew from $1.30 to £1.62 from 2012 to 2013, and as push marketing and other valuable marketing strategies are developed for mobile devices this figure is likely to rise.  6 million daily downloads is a new volume record for Apple since they banned automatic downloads from bots in early 2012, and the App Store has now topped a million apps – sure signs of very strong growth.  Fiksu offers a service known as ‘Loyal User Acquisition’ which refers to users who will open an app at least three times, and the cost  per user rose from $1.25 in 2012 to a record high of $1.79 toward the end of last year, making mobile app marketing more expensive than ever.

mobile marketing

That’s not to say that it isn’t worth the bother. Marketing mobile apps has become increasingly difficult in a flooded marketplace with so many apps offering similar services and functionality. The trick here is to get loyal users who will use the app on more than one occasion, making a ‘brand’ effectively part of their every day lives.  The one area this growth maybe of particular concern is those less established, smaller developers who are looking to find their way into the market.  Inn order for smaller developers to get their apps onto devices they may have resort to “growth hacking” techniques where we’re sure to see a strategy boom in 2014/15.  Watch this space.

For more news and views from mobile marketing and development, follow TedNash on TwitterFacebook and G+

Why Push Notifications are the Future of Mobile Marketing

Marketing techniques have been evolving with technology for decades, and right now you’d be hard pushed to find a brand which didn’t have a responsive web page optimised for mobile interaction.  One step beyond developing a responsive and reflexive web page, is creating customer-facing apps which seek out the end user rather than waiting for the end user to come to them.  This can be a real tough nut to crack for marketers, but once the benefits of push marketing are realised it all becomes worth it.

A push marketing strategy will usually consist of mobile messaging (old school) or app notifications (now we’re talking).  These ‘push’ strategies allow brands to not only engage their fans, but carry on that engagement and offer more value.  In this way, brands can effectively become a part of the user’s day-to-day life and penetrate parts of the market which were previously difficult to reach. An app alert can inform users about product promotions, new services or just offer up information which might encourage a click and result in more traffic to a given site.  There are one or two drawbacks of course, but we’ll get to those in a second.

How the experience differs with mobile push marketing.

Mixpanel app notifications

App notifications and mobile messaging are media rich, enticing ways of prompting engagement.  Research published recently by HubSpot revealed that 90% of app or message notifications were read within 3 minutes of arriving on a users phone or tablet – so there’s this real ‘urgency to engage’ from the user which you only really get from mobile marketing.  And it’s still a relatively new challenge for marketers – Snapchat, Whisper and Instagram are still being studied and turned inside out to see what kind of marketing potential may lie within.  WhatsApp (just purchased by Facebook for around $16 billion – the largest buy in the company’s history) has an audience of around half a billion and the good news for marketers is that in order to sustain themselves, many of these apps will need to monetise some brand-based experiences for users.  The future of mobile is certainly bright, and it’s only just beginning.

Potential drawbacks.

But hang on, there must be a downside to push campaigning, right? While the SMS side of things is relatively straight forward – get people to opt in, get their number, and you can send SMS messages to any handset in the world – mobile app notifications are a slightly more complex affair.  For one, marketers and developers are going to have to run circles around eachother to make sure the notifications are on message and the app is up to date, but even now new tools are being development which streamline this process (Mixpanel have some great things in the pipeline).

There’s certainly a challenge in mobile marketing and getting it just right, but once overcome the possibilities are endless.  With apps booming across iOS and Android, there’s a level of consumer engagement which has never been seen before in the world of marketing – useful, completely up to date, and relevant.

 

Growth Hacking Notes

Entrepreneurs, marketers and developers all work hard to create products they are naturally very passionate about, but from my experience meeting people all over the world in business, there is one problem in particular that has synergy between these types of people. Early stage validation.

Validation is something I believe many people fail to do. It’s a sad fact that many businesses are failing not because they are badly planned or a recipe for failure, but rather they don’t build a foundation that will enable them to succeed.

I genuinely believe whilst there has never been an easier time to start a business, there’s never been a more difficult time to grow one.

Based on those thoughts, through this article I wanted to highlight the techniques I have used to validate concepts I have been involved with over my career. These techniques are generally thought of as ‘growth hacking’.

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HOW TO: Make your app a success…

Being close to both indie developers and corporations who are active in the mobile space, I come across many varied and interesting questions. If you have a question similar to the below, then read on – I might be able to offer you some advice;

“Mobile ad networks seem to be pretty fragmented. What are the top five most effective ad networks for iOS and Android to drive app downloads and/or installs in the US?”

“What is the best ad network for advertising iOS apps and generating downloads cost-effectively?”

“What are the various ad platforms (avenues) to drive app downloads?”

Due to the very clear problems that developers face with app discoverability, there are a number of entrepreneurs and companies trying to solve these issues, and to be honest it’s a bit of a jungle out there in the race to give developers of all sizes a platform to gain awareness and traction for the products they work so hard to create.

I wanted to write this post to give companies of all sizes, as well as individuals a clear understanding of the platforms that are available and more importantly, what they should expect from them.

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