Sircle Squad Profile: Leah Hammer

IMG_4269We sat down to get to know our newest hire, Leah Hammer a bit better and we thought we would share some insights from that conversation. Like many great SircleSquad members before her, she worked her way up thru our intern “farm system” and earned a spot with the team. We love her hustle and commitment to working hard to get the job done.

Leah brings great creative energy to the team and will no doubt be an amazing contributor to our future success. Without further ado, let’s meet her!

Full name/nickname? 

My full name is Leah Hammer. I don’t have many nicknames except for when my best friends call me “Lee”!

Age? 

21

University and Major?

I’m a soon-to-be graduate from the University of Delaware with a major in English and minors in Journalism and Health & Wellness.

How did you find out about Sircle Media?

I found out about Sircle Media while searching for an internship with a social agency that shared my passion for health and wellness. I was searching through Instagram and came across Sircle Media, which I noticed worked with some of my favorite health and wellness brands. In the past, I’ve had the most rewarding internship experiences with agencies who strive to better the lives of others. I could immediately tell Sircle Media had the same philosophy. This factor, along with the extremely warm and welcoming company culture was how I knew I wanted to be a part of the team and learn as much as I could!

Most surprising discover/realization after working here?

Working with Sircle Media has reaffirmed for me how incredible it is to work at a social agency. Sircle Media has the kindest employees, and each day I feel like I’m learning something new. I know I can express my creative ideas and feel like they’re being heard. Everyone is so supportive of one another and strives to improve every day.

What is the best part of your internship?

The best part of my internship has been the employees. Everyone has been so kind, open, and eager to help me in every way possible. I’ve also loved every single brand I’ve been able to work with over the term of my internship. It’s made each day so exciting and always makes me look forward to the next!

What can you tell us about Adam or your supervisor?

While working at Sircle, I’ve had the privilege to work closely with Adam and Michelle Paltan, my social media manager supervisor. When I first started my internship with Sircle, I was blown away by Adam’s weekly emails to the SircleSquad. He would offer advice to all of his employees on how to reduce stress at work, and improve your wellbeing and interpersonal relationships. I remember thinking “how many other companies actually send such thoughtful emails like this?”. Not only has Adam been such a great mentor, but he’s also so successful at what he does!

Michelle has also been a huge factor in my growth as an intern at Sircle Media. Over the past three months that I’ve worked with her, she’s challenged me with new assignments, been open and supportive of my ideas, and demonstrated such a passion for what she does. I can’t wait to continue learning more from her in my new role.

What advice would you give a future intern? 

I would tell future interns to be open to learning as much as possible, and always challenge yourself! Sircle Media is such an amazing company to intern for, with so many opportunities for growth and meaningful connections along the way.

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Sircle Squad Intern: Jayleen Carmona

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We sat down with the newest intern to join The SircleSquad, Jayleen Carmona to learn a bit more about her. Enjoy!

Name? Jayleen Carmona

Hometown? Saint Cloud, Florida

School? University of Florida

Major?  Telecommunications

Why Sircle Media? This past year I started a job as a social media manager for one of the colleges on campus. Although my degree is specialized in production, I realized I had a passion for social media as well. I loved the ability to interact and build a brand through creative content marketing. With this realization, I applied to Sircle and have come to recognize how intense and exciting this growing field is! At Sircle, people are great and the job is always interesting!

Most Likely To? Become a Crazy Cat Lady

Favorite Movie/Book? 500 Days of Summer

Appetizer or Dessert? Appetizer

Beach or Forest? Beach

Favorite Client to Work On? Michter’s!

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We Are Sircle Media

We are Sircle Media. 

We are content creation, community management, and social performance.

We are photography, food styling, stop motion, live action, motion graphics, video production, stop motion, live action, photo shoots, web design, copywriting, Instagram/Facebook/Twitter Management, E-commerce, customer service, paid social, influencer management, brand collaborations, strategy, analytics, digital marketing and so much more.

We are your next social media management solution…

Let’s Go!

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Influencers: Pay them, deploy them and let them do what they do…

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I recorded a podcast episode on the Inner Sircle about working with influencers in today’s market. So many brands are missing this golden era and excellent time of opportunity by not engaging with influencers or by doing it all wrong.

First off, you should not be on the sidelines, plain and simple. Influencers represent targeted community infiltration at scale and that should be part of your mix. Find solid power users, who fit your target demo, analyze their posts, tone, energy, and community and then reach out and negotiate. Remember these are humans and often don’t know how to price themselves correctly. Most swing for the fences and unfortunately, often get their ask from PR Firms or brands that don’t counter well. As a result, they get the wrong sense of the true market. That being said, there is always room for compromise and conversation if you get in the sandbox and play the game. We find the best dollar value comes from multiple posts over many months, rather than “one and done” relationships. This happens because the human behind the Instagram profile values guaranteed recurring revenue for security.

Don’t just look at follower count, which is often BS or has a lot of fluff, that is not your target demo. We argue that you don’t even look at the quantity of engagement as this can also can be BS or just a lot of likes, that equate to nothing. Instead, find someone with fewer followers and less engagement, but who engages back with every single follower. This is someone who is creating a real bond with those users and therefore wields more influence over them. Bottomline – beware those who post but don’t engage and/or who only post staged, one-off product photos. Conversely, over-value those who really carry out on the dialogue and who integrate more with the products in their feed and Stories, like @calliegullickson did for OWYN above.

Once you do get in the game, source the right influencers and negotiate well, but don’t mess it up by trying to be too controlling over the message. Hire them for their storytelling and then let them do just that. The best example of the right way, was when Nike hired Casey Neistat to make a commercial for the #MakeitCount campaign. Rather than a big budget commercial, he and his friend Max just hit the road and went on an epic journey together to actually live the message rather than show it in a contrived way. The result was over 29million YouTube views and a campaign that went down in history as one of the best influencer engagements of all time. It doesn’t hurt that Casey is an all-time great storyteller and content legend, but worth noting this was way back in 2012 when he was not as expensive and was much less well known than he is now.  Go out and find your Casey Neistat people!

 

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On pivoting and keeping your eye on the future…

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I posted a vlog last week, in which I spoke about personal brand and trying to strike balance. After seeing it, someone recommended to me that I read Give and Take by Adam Grant. I jumped on it right away, because I am a huge fan of his and with my new relationship with audiobooks I knew I could tackle it quickly. I did just that, loved it, and highly recommend it.

Early in my career, I was a matcher more than a giver and definitely not a taker. If you read it you will know what I mean. For context here, I would always try and give to people, but the goal was to make relationships. My mentality was that it would come back around and balance out for me. I wasn’t greedy and just taking, but I was giving with the hopes of reciprocation. Nowadays, I give with no payback in sight and often find myself in random situations offering help that will actually most likely never come back around to me. That is the only true giving I have learned and the truth is the only thing I do get is that I learn new things, meet interesting people and sharpen my brain and reaction to scenarios. Who knows, maybe I’ll need that someday if my life or trajectory changes.

On that note, I wanted to talk about pivoting.  My suggestion is that you not be afraid to pivot and understand that life is long and the die has almost never been cast. You can always change your ways or your circumstances to improve your life if you want to. I went from matcher to giver for sure and I definitely value experience and relationships over material things which is a big pivot from 22-year-old Adam Brown.

Let me run it back:

I only applied to one college, The University of Michigan, and I got in by October of my senior year.  So I coasted after that and just partied and acted like an idiot in college, to be honest. It was fun, but I think I was very off my current personal brand and I wish I could change that up. Unfortunately, you cannot go backward but you can learn, pivot and lean forward.

At college, I decided I wanted to go to Law School so I looked for the best major that would afford me the easiest path to a high GPA and I chose Sociology.  I did the least amount of work possible and earned a 3.5+ GPA. Then, I went to Law School and left after 29 days. My Father (an Eye Doctor mind you) had always told me I needed to go into medicine or law, so I would always have the degree to fall back on. He was taught that way, as are many others, but I decided I had to change course for my own sanity. You only live once, right?

This was 1999, during the Dot-com boom and I got a job at 24/7 Media, knowing nothing about anything really. I went in and just worked my face off, earning two promotions within 11 months. I then left my first job in less than a year (don’t be afraid to do that, people) to become Director of North East Sales at Goto.com (the first PPC search engine, pre-dating Google) at 23, with no experience, but a ton of confidence. I would fly up to Boston and walk into Digitas and Arnold, with a suit that was way too big, very little business acumen to lean on, but no worries at all. I was making good money, working in an industry that was hot and I was flying high. Boy did things change pretty quickly!

I left that job 10 months later (just after 9/11/01) to work with my brother in the mortgage industry, despite having to start at the very bottom (so there would be no trace of nepotism) and commute to Long Island every day, which I did not love. That business flourished, drove big revenue and I learned a ton and met some awesome people along the way.  I was head down, developing skills in sales, management, HR, and business, which was amazing and important for my future, but I was also very insular and not paying enough attention to the rest of the world. After almost 10 years of heavy work, growth, and success, our business suddenly had to close down and while nearly every other person scattered and found new opportunities in that industry (many of whom have flourished over the past decade) I made the move once again to pivot and follow my heart and interests, which has led me here to Sircle and what I am doing now.

I am so thankful for my journey and I vow to continue to invest heavily in the now, BUT will always have an eye on the future. You need to play in the current sandbox well, but also know how to play in the new games too. This way you can find your passion and more importantly be prepared for when the market changes, as it always does. At 42, I have lived thru the Dot-come bust, the financial crisis of 2008 and have learned from the pitfalls of thinking things are great and won’t change. They will!

I own a very successful social media strategy firm, but I didn’t even have a Facebook account until 9/3/2010. You can change your trajectory whenever you want and with hard work, paired with real interest and dedication, you can master a new craft.  I help brands navigate social and digital media in the now, so they can focus on building their business today. The future, with AI, AR, VR, and voice, is going to be very disruptive and interesting and I plan to pivot and be ready…Do you?

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POV: Motion Graphics

When trying to create content that will tell your brand’s story in a compelling way, you need to have assets that stand out from the clutter. User attention span continues to dwindle, so you don’t have much time to make an impact. It is more important than ever before to be clever, creative and concise with your messaging.

Data shows that video outperforms still imagery, but most brands haven’t figured out how to create video content affordably in house. The main reason is that most are thinking longer form and/or live action video, and both come with a higher cost (financial and opportunity).  While we love live action at Sircle Media, the real gold, when it comes to social content, is in motion graphics.

The format can be fun and simple and can be crafted by someone sitting at a desk, rather than off running around with a camera somewhere.  If you have people on your team that are good at it, as we do here at Sircle, then you can be off to the races. Some of our best content, both from a likeability and data POV, are these types of assets. We find that they make stakeholders happy, whether they are brand (ART) or results (SCIENCE) oriented in nature.

A lot of time is spent on branding and packaging, especially with healthy CPG and beverage brands, which is where we spend most of our time and energy. We think it is only logical to bring some of that art to life. Even if your Art Director prefers real imagery and/or live video, remember that the brand is the most important character in your messaging. Bring that brand to life with motion graphics and thank me later.

 

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What makes Sircle Media different?

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I saw an opportunity in 2011/2012 to capitalize on a white space in the market. There were tons of agencies, but most were not amazing and many provided terrible customer service and products. There was also this emergence of social networks and very few people, if any, understood them and their power. Having been on the client side for a decade I knew all too well how hard it was for SMBs to navigate digital, and social media took it a level further, with the non-static and conversational and social nature of it. You really needed a full-time employee to navigate it all and that person needed to be well versed in a lot of different disciplines. You cannot find one person who can do all of these necessary things at a high level (still have not met one to date) and therefore, you need a group of different talents to win.

The lightbulb went off for me, that if I could provide social media management in an outsourced capacity, with the look and feel of an employee mindset, but the prowess and multi-talents of an agency of individuals, I might be onto something. Add in “Four Seasons” level service and now you had an Agency who cared about service, hard work, and humans above all else. This was a totally different approach and not something most agencies wanted to tackle as they saw it as unscalable. I set out to do just that….scale the unscalable!

In order to deliver on that promise, I needed to run a company that was also different than most. To do so, I put my employees and our culture above all else, even our clients. This is why I have fired various clients over the years. Most service agencies would never do that, but my employee’s happiness and sanity are mission critical and more important than chasing around an unreasonable, unprofessional and/or unproductive client. By treating my team very well, providing solid work-life balance and constantly staying invested in and involved with their work, life, and growth, I approach things differently than most bosses. I think if they are happy and motivated, then they will deliver next level work and it shows.

All these years later we have grown so much as a company and improved in every facet of the business. The original thesis still holds true and is even more central to the client’s needs today. With the evolution of the marketplace, the addition of new social networks and nuances within each’s products, businesses need a team who can deliver at a very high level, against a number of different disciplines now, more than ever before. We deliver upon this promise every single day.

It is not all roses, trust me. Client services businesses are very difficult, defeating and unrewarding at times. Brand partners can be very demanding and often treat us more like an agency than an employee. It still remains a little abstract for some and as a result, it is harder to push thru and get the really great work done. I also have employees who don’t fully understand or value the opportunity and unique structure, and sometimes slip up and fall into bad habits and behaviors they either learned somewhere else OR it is just due to inexperience in the workplace. So, it is on me (and company leadership) to remind them each and every day of the importance of the work, the promise we have made to each client and how their efforts impact real business results for those brands. By humanizing it, I think it makes them want to work even harder for them.

So, when brands hire Sircle Media, they are not just hiring “someone to run social”.  They are hiring a very progressive business unit, with employee and client minded leadership, that is focused on delivering high-level work and outperforming our pay grade. We want to prove that we are a much better choice than any other option in the market, including internal hires OR external agencies.  We care more, work harder, dig deeper and have a better, more well-rounded understanding of social and what it really means for a business. I believe it shows in the work, in our renewal rates, in our partner referrals and our customer testimonials. That is the most rewarding part of it all!

Some feedback from the FAM:

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3 Instagram Updates Worth Exploring For Better Results in 2019

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This is Karin Huynh again, with a hot take on Instagram and some of the changes that are worth investigating this year. I hope you enjoy!

There are two things in this world that wait for no one: time and Instagram updates. In 2019, it seems like Instagram is steadily rolling out features that could potentially benefit brands and businesses more so than ever before. If you’re running a business, potential customers are going to be searching for your social media platforms to see what people have to say about your brand. Now is the time to really leverage the new Instagram capabilities so you don’t get left behind.

For starters, you can now view the mutual follows of the accounts you are following. Want to see how similar another account is comparable to yours? Curious about what other brands your customers follow? This feature allows you to do market research on the go without wasting too much time scrolling on an account’s following list. It was also getting annoying to have to type in the user’s account name in order to find them if scrolling didn’t work. Another benefit of the mutual followers function is that it can convey to users that the account they are viewing is liked by their peers which means solid social proof and conveys trust. It looks like Instagram is trying to crack down on accounts with big followings that consist mostly of fake followers, and is prioritizing the value of building authentic relationships and community.

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Another recently added feature that may sound counterintuitive to those who sweat follower count, is the ability to remove followers from your account. There is no value in having fake names and bots, especially when people can view that more easily. Once again, Instagram is trying to put a hammer down on inactive, ghost followers, that kill engagement rates and organic reach. Brands are getting smarter and know that a bigger following is meaningless if there are no real people behind those accounts. Removing users will reduce your overall follower count, but for a higher engagement rate, and better optics when people go snooping, it might be worth it.

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Last but not least, Instagram has rolled out an “About This Account” section, which allows any user to view the account’s real-time Ads and Stories. In my honest opinion, the new ”About This Account” section is the most beneficial feature for any business. Instagram is really focusing on transparency this year so now you can view your competitor’s paid Ads in one centralized place. The bonus, in addition to seeing the actual creative brands are running, is that unlike Facebook’s section of “Info and Ads”(added last year for transparency after The Cambridge Analytica controversy), you can also observe the number of views, likes, and comments the Ad received and when the Ad was posted, to determine how well it performed among it’s targeted audience. Leveraging this section will definitely give your brand an edge because you can learn from your competitor’s mistakes while also “borrowing” what has been effective in their campaigns, saving you money, time, and effort.

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To learn more about the updates above and other interesting features on the Instagram platform, you can check out Alex Tooby’s article here.

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5 Simple Tips to Boost Organic Reach on Instagram When Everyone is Using Paid Advertising

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unnamed-1Hi, my name is Karin Huynh and I am an intern with Sircle Media and today’s guest blog writer. I decided to tackle this article from Socialmediatoday.com that talks about fighting declining organic reach on social media. I hope you enjoy it

Paid advertising is all the rage these days. It seems like everyone from teenage influencers, to grandmothers with candle businesses, are getting involved. While paying Facebook and Instagram to garner attention has become the trend, does that mean organic marketing strategies will be obsolete? Not exactly. While it is obvious that Instagram relies on paid advertising to keep their platform running, they still reward accounts that are valuable and interesting to audiences. The main goal of social media is to capitalize on attention and to do so, you need to provide good content and be well versed on how best to deliver that content contextually to the platform. Social networks can be hot one minute, and disappear the next (Myspace, anyone?) so you also need to know how to dominate on what is currently hot and glean as much value for you and your brand as possible. Doing this when the going is good is easy, but as it starts to decline, you need to know how to squeeze the most juice out of the fruit before it is obsolete  Here are 5 ways you can improve organic reach on Instagram so your brand can be in front of more customers.

STUDY THE ALGORITHM

First, it is important to remember that Instagram is not random. The posts that are featured on the explore feed were not chosen because it looked the “prettiest” or the platform thought the picture was “cool” and users might like it. Instagram has an algorithm that allows it to show you posts that are getting a lot of comments and likes, along with making sure the post aligns with your own personal interests. For example, the algorithm might show you a post of an orange cat because it tracked that you liked old posts that had white cats. If you were shown a post with an orange cat, you would be more likely to engage with the content because it knows that you are a fan of cats. Another example would be if you were following a fitness influencer, the algorithm would only show you content related to the fitness niche because you already engaged with that specific type of content from someone else. Therefore, to have a chance of being featured on the explore feed of your audience, think about and work with the algorithm. Although no one knows exactly how the algorithm processes content (except maybe Instagram employees, but they’ll never tell), marketers have inferred that it is based on these three things: recency, relevancy, and engagement. Be sure to study the latest data on your audience insights to observe when your following is most active, what posts they liked the most, and what posts received the most comments. Once you’ve discovered what’s effective, post consistently and cater content to your audience’s interests and the odds of hitting the explore page will be in your favor.

BE PRESENT ON IG LIVE

Another way to fight organic reach decline is by taking advantage of Instagram Live. The platform favors live footage and will increase the visibility of it in the feed. At the end of the day, a follower of your brand is a person who wants either entertainment, utility or education. Instagram Live allows you to connect to your followers and build a stronger relationship with them. If you are open to experimentation, think about how you might go about being live and allowing for users to engage with you directly. For a great Instagram Live session, you could always greet your followers by their username while answering some questions or just showing the behind-the-scenes of your business. Don’t feel like you’re ready to go live and face your audience in real time? Not an issue. You can also test out Instagram Stories using the same ideas, and it’ll prep you for when you are ready to tackle it all in live mode.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CUSTOMERS

The more you give, the more you get back. According to this article, ”51% of people say they’d be more likely to continue engaging with and/or purchasing from a brand if it shared their photo, video or post throughout its marketing.” People naturally love attention, so when a brand takes notice of their content and reposts to the brand’s account, it is an action that pays back tenfold. A great example of a brand that does this is Go Pro. With over 15 million Instagram followers, they prove that user-generated content can be super effective. A majority of their posts are created by actual customers using their products, which makes them seem more authentic.

FIND YOUR TRIBE WITH HASHTAGS

Build a small community around your brand. Since Instagram hasn’t rolled out a feature similar to Facebook groups where people with a common interest can come hang out and cyber network, the closest thing would be to use a specific hashtag meant to connect your followers in a small hub where they can meet other followers or influencers like them and engage with each other’s content related to your business. This is also another way to easily communicate with your followers by liking and commenting on their posts in one spot.  One example of a brand implementing this strategy would be FashionNova with its custom hashtag “#NovaBabe”. When typed in the search bar, this one hashtag alone brings up more than 700,000 posts from other Instagram users, mostly curvy young women interested in the brand and hoping to get reposted on FashionNova’s account with over 15 million followers. The more users that use #NovaBabe in their captions, the broader the reach FashionNova has on Instagram leading to higher engagement and an even bigger following.

HAVE AN AFFILIATE PROGRAM

Okay, maybe this isn’t exactly free, but why give Instagram all of your money when you can pay back your customers for their loyalty? Leveraging an affiliate program allows you to partner with users who wield influence and then compensate them for sales. You are capitalizing on their organic reach and using them as a Trojan horse to get in front of their eyeballs, without technically paying for advertising. 1UpNutrition uses this strategy to increase brand awareness and grow their following. The brand enlists a few macro and micro influencers and everyone who wants to be an ambassador to get their own personalized discount code for their audience and every time someone buys their product with that specific discount code the ambassador earns a commission. As a brand, you don’t have to pay for anything until a sale is made, while at the same time getting free exposure to multiple audiences.

The bottom line here is that organic continues to be harder to tackle, but most good things don’t come easy. You need to continue to invest time and effort if you want to stand out from the pack and win.

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What is your brand?

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I encourage my team to really think about who they are and what they want the perception of them to be. I find employees are quick to blame circumstance, clients, the company and even me at times, but the real foundation is much more about them than anything else. Even if all of those things are terrible, the one thing that is very much within their control is who they are and how they respond to all of it.

Having a “personal brand” is a hot topic these days and lot’s of people are spending time packaging and developing their own. It just comes down to reputation and shouldn’t have to be contrived. If you are awesome, then just let it be known in how you conduct yourself day to day. If you are less than awesome in areas, then work on developing a better way of approaching things and change your perspective. Brands develop over time and as long as your north star and driving force are positive and pure, you will work it out. So I ask…

What is your personal brand? Are you someone who is generally negative or commits to positivity? Do you miss assignments or are you someone that can always be counted on to stick the landing? Do you build others up or tear them down? Do you find solutions, or point out problems? Do you keep things chill or drum up drama? Are you a leader or do you lean back in times when leadership is most needed?

I encourage everyone to self reflect today, even if only for a few minutes. Most of us don’t fit squarely in any one category, nor do we sit in any one area, 100%. That being said it is good to be honest and open with yourself about your brand and then work on self betterment and improving your brand’s perception.

I personally like to know what I am good at, but more importantly I want to know where I drop the ball and what I can do to improve and go from good to great. As a business owner and leader I try to be clear on what I think an employee’s brand is, but sometimes it is hard to be too honest in the moment. I want to continue to build my team up and set them up to win and don’t want the practice of radical candor to be detrimental to their growth, development or day to day work in the short-term.

So, it is important that they deploy a practice of looking inward, identifying where and how they maybe trip themselves up and then committing to working on that. I have found that stopping, thinking and implementing a little bit each day can go a long way. If you are not getting better, you are probably actually getting worse over time. Control your own destiny a bit more and work on your brand. It is your most important asset!

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