Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, November 22, 2010

Seven Tips on How to Build a Following Online

1. Be consistent. We are all creatures of online habit, and if you are hoping to build traffic and a regular audience, it's essential to worm your way into people's routines (much harder than actually getting them to like you!). And in order to do this, it's important to have a posting frequency that your audience knows and expects. Whether you blog/Tweet/Tumble once a day, five times a day, or once a week (but not less than that), know thy social media schedule and keep it holy.

2. Reach out and comment someone. The best way to build traffic is to be noticed. Pick a few well-trafficked blogs and/or Forums, become a fixture, get to know the regulars, write witty comments, and try to attract people naturally your way. The more you invest in other people, and I mean genuinely invest in them, the more they'll be willing to return the favor. Better yet, you might even make some wonderful real-life friends.

3. Take the long view. A following is not built overnight. When impatience enters the picture there's a temptation to be overly controversial, which is a good short-term way of getting traffic, but damaging in the long term. If you make everyone mad people will definitely stop by, but chances are they won't be back.

4. Find your niche. The Internet abhors a vacuum, and it's important to think about what unique information or perspective you will provide. Be as unique and interesting as possible, and make yourself stand out from the pack.

5. Short paragraphs. There are few things less inviting than a massive wall of text. Twitter forces you to be brief, but everywhere else make your paragraphs short and punchy.

6. SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Think about your post titles and imagine what someone would Google if they wanted to know about the topic you're talking about. The more links you receive from other sources the higher your search results, and the more natural traffic you'll receive.

7. Be selfless. It's not about you, it's about your readers and followers. Think about what you are providing them and deliver the goods.






85 comments:

Terry Odell said...

Good advice. I would expand on your #2 to add the caveat, "don't use someone else's blog to tout your own wares", although I think it's OK to include a link to your website and/or blog in your comment (and let me know if that's annoying!)

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Is Dis Normal or Dysfunctional? said...

Nathan, you are sooo right on with your tips, thank you for reaffirming my belief that I need to hang in there and be patient.

I am rapidly gaining popularity as Aspen's #1 blogger and don't want to lose content quality to buy out. On the other hand, I could use some $$ to support my passion, ya know what I mean? I can't help but believe that if I continue to offer good content and help to bring business to other professionals of whom I respect than how can I not eventually be prosperous?

BTW: I would like to access a copy of your book for my boys! How 'bout I write a review for you on my blog?

Noelle Pierce said...

I've found #2 to be invaluable, and I have to remember that it *does* take time when I get frustrated or impatient. Slowly but surely, after a year, my blog has increased hits until at least ten people stop by, whether I post something new that day or not. It gives me the warm fuzzies. *grin*

Noelle

Tracy said...

My biggest concern has always been not the number of people who follow me, per se, but the percentage who comment on a regular basis. Those are the people who genuinely like me and they're the ones I keep in mind while I'm blogging.

Jen said...

Another great post. After almost a year I'm finally seeing traffic on my blog site. I get discouraged peeps don't leave comments but I know it will take time. I'm toying with tag words to see which work the best and am quite active on a few select forums.

I always link my blog site to a post and I don't mind others doing the same. I've come across some really great blog/websites from visiting other people's links. I've also met some great online friends all over the world from posting to boards and joining online writers' sites.

I used to be a very impatient person but this blogging thing has tamed this savage beast. Getting noticed in the writing field takes time, whether it is with a blog or with a book. I just need to bide my time and keep writing. My time will come to shine, when it's the right time.

Thank you for your awesome posts and for being such an inspiration to so many. It must feel absolutely amazing to know you have touched so many people's on such a personal level. Have a fabulous day and a wonderful Thanksgiving.

jen

http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com

Cynthia said...

I agree with Tracey, Most people don't follow, but will consistantly check blogs. Those are the people we need to remember!

Hillsy said...

Damn! I can only be embittered and misanthropic on a semi-regular basis.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Great advice - and don't be afraid to follow. It took me awhile to not fear the "follow" button, but now I'm happy to click on a blog I find interesting.

eeleenlee said...

I agree with consistency- dead blogs are a little offputting

Anna said...

Thank you so much for this post! Perfect timing, respectful voice, great advice. Thanks for keeping the blog going!

Joanne Sher said...

Excellent

Neil Vogler said...

Good advice. The question for authors nowadays is: just how much energy can I realistically devote to keeping on top of my web presence? Between Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, not to mention work and family commitments, it's important to work out just how much of your (finite and incredibly valuable) creative energy you can afford to put into social media. It's an exhausting business, and speaking for myself I try and plough as much energy as I can into my WIP, and any I have left over to the blog etc. Scheduling, people. It's all about scheduling and discipline. And not getting distracted by shiny new internet memes...

dwkazzie said...

I've become increasingly fascinated with this topic.

After writing a weekly humor blog for several months (for mostly Facebook and e-mail friends plus a handful of others -- it was very hard to expand the audience), I got lucky with a short animated video that I wrote and linked to from my blog. Amazingly, my little movie went viral and is pushing 1 million hits on YouTube.

Now then, I've found it just as hard to duplicate that video's success with my newer videos. Yes, the YouTube traffic it has increased traffic to my blog tenfold, but I wonder if that will hold up, even if the quality remains consistent (I think it does, but I realize I don't get to be the judge of that).

So anyway, I really appreciate this post, as it's become my new obsession, and I'm learning that Internet fame can be quite fleeting!

Today's Word Verifier: palin

Nikole Hahn said...

Genuine is the key. ;o)

Elaine AM Smith said...

Great tips.
#7 Be selfless is the real challenge. Self-promotion as altruism?

Cathy Yardley said...

Thanks for this post! I agree, although I'm still trying to figure out how best to work SEO for a fiction novelist. I don't think it's applicable in the way most people try to "own" keywords... I don't know of a single reader that goes "I need a new romantic comedy author. I should Google that." But I could be wrong there.

As far as juggling Social Media & writing, I think that once you've got the plan in place, it shouldn't take that much time. As writers, I think we tend to be extreme (No, really? ) and think we need to write 2000 word posts and tweet twenty times a day. As you say: consistent is better.

J. R. McLemore said...

The third tip is the hardest for me as I tend to be impatient. I'm getting better at waiting because, really, it's not worth it to try to be controversial for the sake of traffic.

Excellent advice, Nathan. Thanks.

Transparent Mama said...

Being selfless. That's the best one. Online and in real life.

Mike said...

Well said. I'm basically into my third week of blogging, www.everytownusa.com. I hope to have the fortitude to continue through the long haul.

Mike Koch said...

Just found blogging as it turns out can you believe it? Heh, I'm loving them too. For me though, I couldn't care less if I have 1 follower (currently) or one thousand, the result will hopefully remain the same. That being an outlet for my creative juices to flow into that are not directly related to my work in progress.

So like what Neil Vogler said above it is going to be an interesting balancing act with keeping the internet presence and writing going. I hope I can keep up the momentum and wish the same for all of you. So please keep writing in your blogs I can't wait to read each of them in turn.

Carol Riggs said...

Great basics, here! I can relate to what Susan Kaye Quinn said about "fearing the Follow button." It took me a long time to figure out it's not an unbreakable contract to the blog you follow that you'll be there every day, writing copious comments. It's more like a neat give-and-take, like "cool!--you're following me? okay, then I'll follow you!"

I really agree with your advice, Nathan, about large blocks of type, huge paragraphs. Way too daunting to read. And will people stop making those BLACK blogs with the WHITE or NEON lettering? Ow, my eyes!

Charli Armstrong said...

Sigh...

If I could just master #1.

I'm getting there, really I am!

Phoenix said...

Too many fiction writers, I think, blog about writing -- what writing means to them, where they are in the process, tips about how to write. It's difficult to stand out in the plethora of writers' writing blogs.

My own blog falls just barely outside of that: I critique queries and synopses.

Now don't get me wrong. I LOVE writers and I LOVE being able to help my fellow careerists. But at some point I'm sure we all want to target readers outside the writing arena. Cultivating THAT audience is the real challenge.

Any chance of advice on how to expand from a fiction writer's blog to a reader's blog, without become a book-review blog?

Stirling Noh said...

Consistency is the hardest part because, frankly, it's hard to stay interested in most blogs.

Nate Wilson said...

Excellent advice, Nathan! To help prove your hypothesis, I shall be part of your control group and disregard all seven tips.

(By the way, to ensure I disregard tip #2, please ignore this comment.)

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Haste yee back ;-)'s blog has consistent genuine nothin'! So, come by and contemplate nothingness, sorta like Arkansas Zen. (Watch for droppin' Hickory nuts... big ole' suckers, I mean, knock yer ass out big)!

Haste yee back ;-)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Guest blogging with Rachelle Gardner probably helps too. :)

T. Anne said...

Great tips Nathan. I find following people and commenting on their blogs is a great way to build relationships. I try to post M,W,F that way I maintain consistency and yet it's not too overwhelming for me. Also taking extra days off (unplugging) for Holiday's and vacations helps maintain my sanity.

Fun seeing you over at Rachelle's blog today! I'm glad you're enjoying your new endeavor.

Anne R. Allen said...

One of the best, most concise pieces on blogging ever!

I'd add a #8 DON'T APOLOGIZE. Nothing is more boring than bloggers apologizing for not blogging. Decide how often you want to blog (even once or twice a month is fine) but then do it. And if you don't, shut up about it.

dwkazzie--she's everywhere. Be afraid. Very afraid.

salima said...

thanks nathan! this is really helpful after realizing how critical social media can be. i read betsy lerner's post and have been thinking about this stuff ever since....

Sommer Leigh said...

I think you can also add to that list to optimize your blog so that anyone can post.

There are several blogs I follow, usually Blogger or Livejournal blogs, that have their commenting set, either by default or on purpose, to only accept comments from blogger users. Because I am on Wordpress.org, not Blogger, I can't post without creating a blogger account, which I don't want to do. It makes me sad :-(

The option of Name/URL for commenting is appreciated for those of us not on blogger.

D.G. Hudson said...

#1 is difficult for me, but this year was better than the last, so it's improving. I like to have a theme sometimes, and book reviews (of what I've read and recommend to others) As some of the others have said, it's difficult to balance writing time, blogging time, research, and regular life into 24 hours.

I like that blogging forces me to write as consistently as I can manage, and simulates meeting deadlines (albeit they are my own).

One thing I would add - be discreet on your blog, as you never know what might come back to bite you (you know where). Also if you have trouble with comments which aren't appropriate, you may have to approve comments first.

Keep your blog interesting, by using photos,contests or whatever you choose, but limit the ads -- most readers hate those.

Thanks for the excellent tips, Nathan.

madisonwoods said...

By 'blog titles' do you mean post titles or the actual title of the blog itself?

I had never considered using good keywords for my post titles - but if that will help, I surely will in the future.

Thanks for the tips!

Nathan Bransford said...

Oops, thanks Madison, that's what I meant.

Anonymous said...

# 9, provide a reason for interaction. Ask questions, take polls, ask for contrary opinions, ask for discussion and participate in the discussion, ask for further insights on the topic. In a best practice, artfully pose the questions so readers don't feel obliged to comment but comment anyway.

# 10 reach out and touch readers with encouragement and approval; avoid naysaying at all costs.

The above two will go a long way toward building a faithful fan base, perhaps more than any of the previous eight, including Anne R. Allen's # 8 Don't apologize, which is true if a self-deprecating appeal. Better still, never post anything that requires an apology. If an apology is indicated for a misunderstanding then by all means do so. If an apology is warranted for a misstated fact or such, then by all means do so.

Anonymous said...

# 11 Keep it simple. Busy blogs confuse and disorient and visitors blink off. Manage content by archiving old threads in link indexed folders, minimalize graphic content.

In my estimation, the Nathan Bransford blog is a bit on the busy side.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

What would you change/remove?

Kelly Hashway said...

Great post. I completely agree with number 5. I know when I'm commenting on blogs, I cringe when I see long paragraphs. People want to read a post quickly and long paragraphs can scare commenters away.

Lovelyn said...

Thanks for the great advice. I tend to fall short when it comes to consistency, but I'm really trying to correct that. Do you think it's necessary to post daily when you're first starting out?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bransford,

I wouldn't remove so much as organize. Putting the left and right column listings under downstream page links would clean up a lot of the clutter. I wouldn't change the Jacob Wonderbar graphic or the masthead content. The rest didn't interest me much after I'd examined them once. Query Shark, for example, maintains a relatively streamlined front page.

I'm of two minds about the content after "You might also like:" being on the front page. Perhaps a link to that for downstream content too. But then it's not right there for newer followers ready access.

Gospel Girl said...

Great post Nathan...and you're right consistency is very important and if you sincerely and faithfully visit and comment on other blogs, sometimes they will do likewise.

Jodie Renner Editing said...

Thanks for another great blog post, Nathan! I've been running a blog since July that is dedicated to advice for fiction writers, and I'm really starting to notice the increase in traffic lately! It feels good!
In case anyone wants to check it out and glean a few tips on writing fiction, it's at http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com.

Love your posts, Nathan!

M.A.Leslie said...

Nathan,

Thank you for your post as usual and as usual it is inspiring me. It made me think today. What is my least favorite part of this whole writing process?

Honestly, the answer so far is genres. I haven't gotten a handle on them. Frankly, I think that I may have queried work in the wrong genre just do to lack of educating myself.

Let me make the story short, too late. I am going to try and compile as much information about genres as possible and work to post about what they include and lack. Maybe, I will be able to help another soul out there that is querying in the wrong genre and get some discussion so that we can all learn together.

If I haven't said it enough, I'll say it again. Thank you Nathan.

Jessica Ashley said...

Awesome advice! :)

LEO TOLSTOY said...

'There a few things less inviting than a massive wall of text.' Whatever do you mean?

LEO TOLSTOY said...

'a' should read 'are', of course. I'm just not used to writing short sentences. Or short books.

HERMAN MELVILLE said...

Leo is right!

J. T. Shea said...

'...become a fixture...' Yep! You'd have to get me surgically removed at this point!

BTW, I don't have a link, but a seven-year-old chihuahua named Momo has joined the police canine rescue team in Nara, in western Japan. In a test, Momo took under five minutes to find a target person in an 1,100 square foot area. So, if you lose anyone in your apartment, just send in Buster.

Also BTW, something tells me those guys above are not the real Leo Tolstoy or Herman Melville...

toni said...

Thanks for the advice Nathan!

I think I'm good with everything except #7. Working on it :)

J. T. Shea said...

'I can only be embittered and misanthropic on a semi-regular basis.' Are you sure, Hillsy? Have you REALLY tried hard enough?

Anything worth doing is worth doing well, particularly bitterness and misanthropy. Both can be practiced as a fine art. Learn from the masters (you'll meet them everywhere).

Always remember, it is not enough for people to fail dismally, we must discourage them from ever even trying!

Anne R. Allen said...

Anon 10:32--I was talking about apologizing for not blogging--not apologizing for a mistake. We all do that from time to time and should own up.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

Good advice. I'm going to work on titling my posts better -- because whimsical mental tangents sure do amuse me, but I can't imagine they're very helpful for search indexing.

J.M. Lacey said...

Nathan,

You're right on with your tips. Thanks for sharing with us! Blogging is still marketing, and that takes time, consistency, and understanding your target audience.

Mike said...

It's true. I do print and web design all day long and am regularly confounded by how many people have no strategy when it comes to social marketing. I find most have better results if they set aside a certain block of time each day to either get their message out or support others.

It also doesn't hurt to contact professionals, if that is at all possible, as this stuff is in constant flux.

Scooter Carlyle said...

I know I'm no poster child for what to do online, but I do know I have un-followed people for the following reasons:

1. Megalomania.
2. Snarky words. Constantly. Nearly every post.
3. I agree with Terry Odell that it's inappropriate to post an advertisement as a comment.

Carson Lee said...

"Walls of text": on my blog, I sometimes put spaces between paragraphs and then when I click "publish" -- it comes out without the spaces. Some Internet hidden force or something closes up my spaces which had created read-able islands of text and makes the islands back into a wall.
It's like -- "May the force be with you," and the Force IS with me, and it's f-----g with my paragraphs...!?! is there a way for me to deal with this?

Lucy said...

Great advice. Especially loved the last one. We need more people to be selfless in this world and in the blogosphere.

Jay said...

Couple things:

1) I've learned it's good to have a photo of yourself on the sidebar, or some element on the page that's always there. A photo of your face -- not anything extremely goofy or artistic. It lets people know there's a human behind the blog, and it's unique branding.

2) People should come to your blog for your writing for the most part, not anything else. A robot can set up a contest or do any of the gimmicky stuff that overloads the internet.

Binnie said...

Thanks for this. I agree with Terry Odell's comment, "don't use someone else's blog to tout your own wares." It's great if they'll do it for you, and the favour should be returned, but tacky in the extreme to impose yourself.

JP said...

Excellent advice.

I think it's very important to have patience. Success through writing online, whether it's blogging, publishing content, or owning a website, is a slow and steady climb.

Perseverance is key.

jongibbs said...

I had to laugh when I saw #7, I'm giving a two-hour blogging workshop called 'It's not about you.'

Great post, as always. Thanks for sharing :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice. Consistency, not posting too long posts, and selflessness are really so important. I never thought of SEO, but if I ever have a blog, I will.

The Red Angel said...

These are such good tips! Thanks so much, Nathan. :) I'm still a young blogger and though I have gotten quite a few followers, I hope to build up my reputation in the blogosphere and gradually make myself more known to others. I'm going to share this post with one of my friends, who has just started her own blog. :D

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I think it's about making personal connections...remembering things about your followers and noticing things. If someone is absent for a while, email or fb them to check and see if they are okay. Perhaps they've had some rejections and need to know they matter. Your email might just be the thing to keep them going...

Gretchen said...

Number five! Could we please broadcast this one to some of my friends who write in the "running blog" genre? Paragraphs, please!!! I only skim because you're my friends, but seriously, no one else is reading that giant block of text. Ugh!

And number one is, I think, number one for a reason. I really saw my traffic jump when I became a more frequent poster. I know it would help if I was more regular, (which I'm not). It's an area I'm working on and I really hope to come up with at least one regular weekly feature that can be a backbone of my blog. Thanks for the reminder that these things are important!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I find that commenting on other people's blogs, and by commenting I mean real comments not just one liners, I tend to see my number of followers go up. It's amazing how much my blog has grown since I started to blog religiously M-F and commenting on other blogs.

Mira said...

This post is worth gold. Terrific advice - very, very helpful.

Re. #7, I think that is one of the secrets of your enormous popularity, Nathan. You are extremely generous - generous with time, with information and with your followers - and this post is very much an example of that.

Steppe said...

Publicity is the uberheading.
Hardcopy verses Digital.
The mixture is still the same as learned in business schools.
Novelty - Depth - Familiarity.
All those elements are present in any successful publicity campaign. A blog is a publicity campaign. The early days are the prototype. If a blog catches fire and draws consistent readers all three elements have to be in play. Depth is the hardest and draws readers back. Can the readers drill down and find value. Here, N,s blog it is synoptic reminders of the key functions of writing with forums to reinforce the absorption-immersion experience. Whatever a person is blogging about even if it is a sub genre of fiction there should be text based summaries and links to key resources to appeal to the authors audience. Accumulating key text summaries is the hardest part. Familiarity means consistency in various functions. Novelty is tough and dangerous unless you have space monkeys that appear on command in the sky when you appear in a distant metropolis and suddenly whip out your secret magic wand and summon your patronus. Balloon boy is a good example of novelty as a publicity stunt gone bad. Lack of any novelty whatsoever is like being a bird on the outside of a flock reacting to the pressure to turn generated by the tighter confines at the center of group.
In the final analysis publicity is like designing recipes a lot of it has to do with adapting to what is available at the moment.

The latest amazingly successful publicity campaign I am studying is to get everyone to be submissive enough to accept full cavity searches before flying on any public aircraft as a noble sacrifice to our gallant war effort to protect Grandma's house from the big bad wolf.
So far the campaign is right on track.

... just kidding! I hope.
Anybody need a few million frequent flyer miles.
Mo Mas, No Mas, No Mas!!!

wendy said...

Here here, Mira. I agree Nathan's generousity is what makes this blog such a fun place to visit - and his people skills and intelligence.

Those seven tips are spot on, I think, but I'm doing none of them. *looks shame-faced*
I think I'd rather visit other blogs and comment.

Hillsy said...

J T Shea:

The rest of the time I'm practically genocidal, tinkering with some old radio equipment and a dustbin lid trying to send out a message to some Hate-Filled, militaristic, alien race to choose the Earth as their next conquest.

If I was merely misanthropic all the time I'd probably end up adding to the clamouring masses talking to themselves on the internet in the vain hope someone will listen in.

This is all jealousy, of course - I'd love to be able to blog

The Good Wifehold said...

Suggestion for Pheonix... as a writer why not write a story with chatacters... I guess the equivalent of a soap opera???

Wouldn't that be a good showcase for a fiction writer?

TGW
www.thegoodwifehold.blogspot.com
(And yes... shameless touting)

The Good Wifehold said...

(oops characters)

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I agree with what you're saying here. But, I do think that readers of your blog should be able to get a sense of the reader behind the books. On the blogs I follow closely, I feel like I know the reader who's writing the reviews. I identify with them somehow or care about them. And that's why I go back and trust their recommendations.

Thanks for the advice!

Laurie Boris said...

These are great tips, Nathan, thank you! I'm starting to build a presence and this reminds me to be slow and steady. I really like Terry Odell's comment about not touting your own wares on someone else's comment threat. That's just rude. As someone I once worked with in advertising said, "buy your own media space."

J.W. Thompson said...

Great advice

JW Thompson

http://wp.me/pIVGG-1q

Moses Siregar III said...

Awesome.

That is all.

Heidi said...

Another tip is to "pay it forward:" blog about the blogs you follow. I did this recently, and:
1. It gave me an instant post topic, because
2. I'm happy to promote things/sites/people that I like,
3. The other bloggers are appreciative, and will stop by to read your post. (It helps to send them a quick email letting them know of your patronage.)
Good Luck and happy blogging!

Marjorie said...

I attracted a huge following by being a kook. Sure, people got an impression, but who cares. I can morph and code switch at the drop of a hat.
My comments are my brand of cutting edge performance art, and I was noticed by many who were on a kook watch.
Many readers wrote, "I get you." And they were the ones who loved my blogs. The others thought me "batsh*t" and blocked me... but I'm still here.
It's my joke and my fun and I get the last laugh.

Holli said...

I can't do anything on a routine, so number one is out, but other than that, great advice for me. I follow most of it already, but a nice refresher and a new tip or two.

You apparently practice what you preach as evidenced by the number of comments on your blog- people read what you write. Success achieved.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice
Jambalaya Justice coming 2011

KSCollier said...

Thanks for the awesome advice. You are usually "right on," and that's why I love reading your blog. However, what are the odds that your comment is even noticed, as there are so many comments.
I've recommended many writers' follow your blog because of your great advice.
Twitter, blogging and facebook can take a lot of time from writing, but platforming is a must. Go get 'em fellow writers. Happy New Year!!

euclid said...

My blogs tend to be short and funny - not usually informative at all.

I have 12 followers.

Yours is massively informative, with the humor dial turned well down. You have over 5,000 followers.

I wonder if there's a lesson to be learned there!

Writeous said...

I only THOUGHTI knew what blogging is.

Anonymous said...

@ euclid: O RLY? ^_^

I tend to disagree about the "humor dial being turned down."

Not too many bloggers I've seen can so deftly make an informative point about query letters...in a MadLib.

NB: Mr. Bransford's initials are the same as the Latin expression for "note well." :-)

Word verif: "Agizes." Seems like TwitterSpeak for "agonizes" or even "antagonizes." I think the captcha has caught a bit of Misanthrope's Complaint. ;-)

Jagoda said...

This is really good advice, Nathan. As someone new to the blogosphere and a little social media shy (didn't grow up with it, you know so it's like visiting a foreign country), I'll take all the helpful advice I can find.

Tommy Mann said...

This is all very good advice. I stopped using some of my social media because I just couldn't do it consistently. There are some pages on FB and Twitter that will post hung ho for 3 days then stop for 2 months, then repeat. I decided to focus on just FB and Twitter plus my blog, and do those consistently.


Tommy Mann Ministries

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