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Is Something Rotten In The State of Twitter Moms?

Is Something Rotten In The State of Twitter Moms?

At a party at BlogWorld, I spoke to a guy who was trying to help his client (a clothing company) get a foothold in the social media arena. One of the ways he was considering doing this was through hiring TwitterMoms, a site that publicizes itself as “the influential moms network,” to promote his client’s company. Once the guy I was talking to found out I was a mommyblogger, he wanted to know what I thought about Twitter Moms, and whether or not I thought it would be worth an investment.

I told him that I couldn’t really say anything good about it from a blogger’s perspective for reasons that are not unique to Twitter Moms as a network, e.g.:

  1. they ask a lot for not a lot of payback;
  2. there are many people doing work but only a few people getting the lion’s share of the reward;
  3. as a community member, I have not seen it demonstrated that the network gives a ton back to the community.

But I told him that these were not things unique to Twitter Moms, and that I had never personally participated in anything, I couldn’t really speak from my own experience.

I had no metrics on how effective their campaigns were for the advertisers. But even without looking into specifics, I wouldn’t have recommended a program like Twitter Moms to my readers and, given that, I didn’t see how it could possibly behoove a brand to partner with them. My general theory was this: in social media, it has been my observation that you get the most bang for your buck from partnerships where everybody walks away from things with a good feeling. Bloggers like to promote things they feel good about, and if they don’t feel good about a network, they probably won’t feel good about a brand that partners with it.

I don’t know if the guy ended up hiring TwitterMoms or not.

What do bloggers think about Twitter Moms?

Some controversy on the blogger side of Twitter Moms was brought to my attention recently, and honestly, even though I have suspected that I should write something on the Twitter Moms site/program for a while, I’ve hesitated to do so for a few reasons. Twitter Moms promotions or contests (why this nomenclature is controversial is still unclear to me) do not appeal to me, personally, and they are not something that I would recommend to people trying to make it in the business of blogging, but I do not consider my own opinion to be the only one that counts on that front.

That said, after reading more about the Twitter Moms model, I have to say the model is fairly funky for the bloggers participating. I’m not sure I’m willing to say that it’s . . . nefarious, as the linked post seems to suggest, but rather just that it, like many of these kinds of programs, is just a really, really bad deal. For instance:

  1. You’re working for gift cards with values in the double-digits;
  2. Which, OK, that’s fine if you’re willing to do that, but the thing is that you are not guaranteed to get a gift card after you do the work;
  3. Even if you do the work, and you turn it in on time, you might not ever get the gift card because your work isn’t good enough or doesn’t meet the standards of the sponsor, and there’s no way of knowing this ahead of time, because in effect this is a “job” for which you have not really applied or been prescreened;
  4. In other words, if you’re a great, fast writer, with a healthy network and a decent looking blog, you’re golden here, because you look good to the advertisers and you can probably wrack up a bunch of gift cards really quickly, but what about poor schmoe in the corner, with the crappy spelling and the ugly sidebars? The one with no followers? She‘s not getting any gift cards! But she keeps writing her posts about toilet paper anyway, hoping for one of those $50 Amazon gift cards . . . she unwraps her posts each day from days old wax paper, hoping maybe today will be her day, only to go home again, empty handed and with a heavy heart. What about her? What about her dreams? and
  5. Right, now I’m back to the fact that we are working for a chance at getting a gift card with a face value in the double digits, and — no judgment — even if you plan to sell them on eBay, I’m just not seeing this as a great long term strategy for business growth.

In this case, I think a “contest” is actually better than what Twitter Mom promotions are for bloggers. I’m not sure we have a word yet for what they really are.

What about advertisers?

From the advertisers’ side, here are the less-than-rave reviews about Twitter Moms as a means of promoting a product. First, in order to promote the power of the TwitterMom network, agents emphasize how many Twitter Moms there are in the network (total) instead of how many are actually likely to participate in any one promotion. For instance, I think I am a Twitter Mom, technically speaking — I joined a few years ago and have never participated in any of the promotions, but if this is correct this means that ad slots are being sold with my membership included in the number of people that are suggested will promote a product. To give you an idea of the disparity in numbers, the Twitter Mom network currently has 28,000 members, and this promotion had 72 participants.

Second, the actual promotion that the advertiser sponsors ends up being a promotion of bloggers’ posts or a Twitter party, rather than a strict promotion of a product that you would get in a regular ad campaign. There’s nothing technically wrong with this, but there are several levels removed from the product and no guarantee that any of the blog posts written on a product will actually get read, much less that they will cover the product in the way that the sponsor desires. And in the case of a Twitter party, things are even more dire: as I’ve written before, people hate Twitter parties, it pisses people off and makes them unfollow, except in rare cases where people have built up a ton of trust capital that they are willing to expend on something. And in the case of Twitter Moms, that is not something that is happening on a regular basis.

Lastly, the price to run a Twitter Mom campaign is high, even by advertising standards. Supposedly a Twitter Mom campaign can cost 10K or more per promotion. Allegedly, the proceeds are then split between agents and Megan Calhoun, the owner of Twitter Moms. Obviously some of that money will need to be spent on buying the gift cards to pay(?) the writers(?)/contest winners(?). In a typical contest that advertises 50 winners of $50 Amazon gift cards, that would suggest that $2500 of that money is being spent on gift card “rewards.” The payoff is huge for Calhoun, particularly in contrast to what the people doing the actual writing are getting. But now that I think about it, there are definitely gigs around the blogosphere that pay far, far less.

Thoughts?

As of 2011, TwitterMoms is to be rebranded as SocialMoms due to a trademark violation. You can read about this move here.

Hey everybody, we’ve got a new featured blogger ad up and running! Please check out Lorrie’s ad for Clueless In Carolina in the sidebar ASAP! If you’d like to participate in the ABDPBT Featured Bloggers Program, please email me and I’ll put you on the waiting list.

Comments (43)

  1. Nov 29, 2010

    I started a group for local bloggers and one member brought this up on our discussion forum:
    http://theblogfrog.com/1500206/forum/66831/full-disclosure—as-talked-about-in-last-meeting.html#NULL

    I haven’t ever participated in the Twittermoms campaigns because I think that asking bloggers to write for a “chance” to win is insulting and devalues the worth of bloggers. Is there anyone else besides mommybloggers who would be asked to produce work for a “chance” to get paid? In gift cards?

    Do you happen to know that the disclosure rules are for Tweets? Are there official rules, or is there just social media etiquette?

  2. Nov 29, 2010

    I’m not familiar with Twittermoms – thanks for pointing this out! In general, I am not a fan of the “write a blog post for a chance to win” sort of thing. MomSelect does this fairly frequently as well. While I don’t have a beef with MomSelect for doing this, I generally delete those emails without reading them. My time is worth something to me! After all, there are plenty of other folks doing giveaways already – I’d rather just enter a silly comment for a chance at gift cards. Writing an entire blog post takes too much time for a single “chance” at winning something.

    I agree that in the case of Twittermoms it is not a “contest”, per se. However, using the word “competition” is fair because truly, there is a race involved.

  3. Nov 29, 2010

    I don’t want to get my sources in trouble, but let me just say that Calhoun is making a fortune off this deal. I don’t begrudge people making a buck, but the cost is a bunch of bloggers who don’t know what is going on, and a bunch of advertisers who don’t understand social media enough to understand they are being taken for a ride. That’s the bottom line, from my perspective. My opinion only, like I said.

    Regarding the tweet disclosure, my understanding is that the FTC has not weighed in officially on disclosure on tweets. But personally I think the FTC thing is a load of crap, it’s unconstitutional and unfair. If you have people in your community who have participated in Twitter Moms in the past, my advice to them is go back to those posts and mark those links as no follow so that they don’t get dinged by google, and add disclosure to the posts. Also advise them to not participate in the future. Their biggest worries are not from the FTC but from Google, really, IMO, though of course the FTC is technically able to fine them and might to make an example. As far as I know nobody has ever done this, though.

  4. Nov 29, 2010

    Ugh. I don’t judge how bloggers want to spend their time, but it sounds like a pretty bad deal to me. Through your link I was catching up on the whole Samsung-Twittermoms fracas of 2009. The whole promotion was totally clown shoes.

    And I most definitely agree that people hate twitter parties. The only thing I really want to see talked about on Twitter is the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

  5. Nov 29, 2010

    Interesting post, and I’m torn between two opinions. I’m totally on board with your general philosophy, Anna, about not selling your blogging-self out, and building trust capital. BUT, am I grateful for the $100 giftcard to TinyPrints that I got via a TwitterMoms promotions? Uh, yeah.

    At the risk of sounding insulting (which, seriously, I’m not), I feel like this whole “don’t pimp out your blog for peanuts” campaign is designed to save the blogosphere from being sabotaged by little bloggers, and also to save little bloggers from themselves. A virtual “Bless your heart, you just don’t know any better” kinda attitude. And I totally get that. Advertisers take advantage because they CAN.

    But what if I’m OK with being exploited? I will NEVER have the ability to compete on your level, and I’m not really attempting to do so. Groups like TwitterMoms pander to my group and throw alms to the poor. Yes, it sets a bad precedent as to what little bloggers will work for, but what if I’m not expecting more? I like getting rewards in the short term; my blog career many not have a long term.

  6. Nov 29, 2010

    I’m a “member” of Twitter Moms and have participated in one of their campaigns but don’t plan in participating again. I’m not a fan of this sweepstakes movement in the blog world. So I don’t participate in campaigns like that. I just don’t have the time. And I think it’s unfair the way Twitter Mom’s promote these offers. They just need to be promoted as giveaways and nothing more.

  7. Nov 29, 2010

    What Becky said. I’d rather hear about that odd wrinkle just a smidge above Camille’s Line of Botox that comprises the smooth plane of her forehead, than some damned Twitter party.

  8. Nov 29, 2010

    Yes! I get that, and this is why I always am so hesitant to write these posts, because I don’t want to be one of these bloggers who is like, patting people on the head and being all patronizing. I HATE THAT. I hate that attitude. But, having said that, I think I should clarify a few things: 1) you might be a little bit confused about what competing at my level means; and 2) I really want was trying to say, go ahead and do this stuff, if you want to, as long as you know what you are doing and you understand it, go ahead and do it, it is OK with me, because I do acknowledge that we don’t all have the same goals for what we do online.

    Here’s the thing: competing as a blogger takes years. Years. Without exception, people who are making money as bloggers have spent years building up their ability to do so, and that’s years of actively trying to make it into a business, going to conferences, putting themselves out there, investing their own capital, etc. This is what I have done, personally, for about two and a half years now and money is now starting to trickle in, still not full time income, mind you, but starting to trickle in finally now after that long. And I think that’s actually pretty quick, and it’s not all coming from display ads, it’s coming from other areas in addition to the usual obvious ways that people think of.

    So, I do think posts like these come off patronizing and I HATE THAT, I don’t want to be patronizing, but I also want people to be able to do a google search if they’re wondering if Twitter Moms is a good idea or not, so they can have the info. Because if you’re looking to make $50 and you’re not planning on investing years in building a small business online, OK, sure, yeah, fine. But some people are, and I’m not sure this is the best route. That’s basically all I’m saying.

    Also, and I didn’t really emphasize this, as exploitative as this thing can be seen, the payback really is better than many, many blogs out there that have staff writers working for free on a regular basis. I know people seem to think that is OK, and that people are happy doing that. I have never really understood, personally, why that is different, but some people seem to think it is and that’s fine. I’d sooner work for a chance at a giftcard than work regularly for free, though. Just saying.

  9. Nov 29, 2010

    The question I have is if they have a lot of people who are longtime bloggers working for them. Because I think if you really understand how links work and how Google ranks you, etc., that you probably would be more hesitant to do this kind of stuff, at least on a regular basis, unless, as Shasta points out, you are mostly a hobby blogger and you’re doing it just to get a little “pin money” here and there. I guess that’s my chief objection — as long as people who are involved really understand the repercussions of what they are doing, then no harm, no foul. But I’m not sure that is the case.

  10. Nov 29, 2010

    Yeah, I hate being all prissy about what bloggers do, I hate being that person, and here I am being that person. But, I do think there are people doing this who are new to blogging and who do not understand what it is, exactly, they are doing in terms of SEO, etc. That’s what bothers me. So, yeah, I guess I’ll be THAT person.

    But then again, there are much lower paid gigs on the internet that people do all the time and nobody bats an eyelash, and I keep being told that is somehow different. I still don’t understand why it is different. But I’m assured it is.

  11. Nov 29, 2010

    Am I right in thinking that Kelsey signed off on RHOBH so that everyone would think that he was right to divorce her? I mean, smart PR move there, am I right?

  12. Nov 29, 2010

    Maybe I read your post or replies to comments too quickly–but I don’t see you spelling out anywhere (or linking to a previous post that does, or a Glossary entry) what, precisely, the Google-related consequences for taking part in these types of giveaways are. What EXACTLY happens to your Google rankings when you, as a blogger, participate in a contest by writing sponsored posts? Or maybe that’s a separate Personal Finance post…

  13. Nov 29, 2010

    Totally! What was it he said? “I think it’s time for Camille to get a little attention”? Snort.

  14. Nov 29, 2010

    Don’t worry, I didn’t think you were being patronizing at all. I appreciate you differentiating between people looking to become career bloggers and people just effing around with blogs online. Your position makes more sense to me when you frame it as “enlightening new bloggers”; that’s a good thing.

    I agree that if you’re in it for the long haul, doing promos and establishing yourself as a giveaway blog may not be best course of action, especially with the whole “work for a CHANCE to win”; those are just irritating. Potentially irking readers AND getting nothing in return – why bother?

  15. Nov 29, 2010

    Actually, I didn’t spell it out, but in one of the linked posts in the comments it does explain it. Here’s the problem: a Twitter Moms promo is, as far as the FTC and Google are concerned, a sponsored post. So if you write a promo for Twitter Moms and don’t disclose (and apparently Twitter Moms does not tell you to do so or doesn’t require you, or at least doesn’t check that you have and definitely does not want you to make your links “no follow” links (a tag that tells Google they are paid links and should not help enhance SEO) because that is the whole point of Twitter Moms promos, basically, is to help advertisers increase their SEO at the expense of bloggers), you can get dinged by Google in terms of your site’s Google Page Rank. This matters if you are trying to be a professional blogger because it affects how you are indexed by Google, how fast you come up in search rankings, etc. It’s complicated, but the gist is that Twitter Moms is selling your page rank without you knowing it, more or less.

  16. Sheila
    Nov 29, 2010

    Yes – this is what I’m curious about as well. What did the XTHD guy mean about getting “de-listed”? Possibly this is too technical to explain but I didn’t understand this part.

  17. Nov 29, 2010

    OK, so in an extreme case, you can get severely penalized by Google and just taken out of the index altogether for having paid links that aren’t marked as such. It just depends. Nobody really knows how Google decides to do things, but basically, if you do these things you are risking losing your page rank (having it go down), or just being removed from the search index altogether, which means that you won’t come up in Google searches because you’ve violated Google’s rules about selling links. That’s really extreme. I explain some of this in my ebook, by the way.

  18. Nov 29, 2010

    YES. Totally.

  19. Nov 29, 2010

    I don’t object to people blogging for gift cards if they need/want to. That setup, though, sounds hinky to me. I’m guessing the controversy over calling it a “contest” has something to do with the fact that there are laws in many places about how contests have to be run. Plus, I can’t be the only person who thought the owner’s Twitter responses to the author were a little “but honestly Monica” in terms of the tone. When someone is that defensive when questioned about their business model…well, that’s a red flag right there.

  20. Nov 29, 2010

    Yes, I agree. Grammar has totally been playing his cards right on this one.

  21. Nov 29, 2010

    So I’ve been reading about this Twitter thing and I will admit I’d never HEARD of Twitter moms and now it sounds even worse than I imagined, seriously.

    Is this popular among the crazy cartoon-header set who does nothing but giveaways? Or has it spread to other people, too?

  22. Nov 29, 2010

    I really agree and like what you said here, because it’s true. But if you ARE only blogging as a hobby, I would think that you might care a little about readership, maybe? And I think, Anna, you always bring up a great point that you can do these things, but you risk alienating your readers. This is a vastly different message than the REALLY patronizing one that implies that when people do this, they fuck it up for everyone else. I don’t get that from you, ever. I get that from other people who typically have, say, three numbers in their username.

    The point is that it has consequences for YOU, the blogger, not WE, the community, necessarily. And I think that’s a point you make repeatedly, very well.

    The WE the community thing is where things get patronizing and shitty. I get the feeling you’re trying to tell bloggers what THEY are worth for THEM, not what THEY are doing to fuck it up for EVERYONE ELSE.

  23. Nov 29, 2010

    I agree. If someone wants to blog for product, or write an article for $3, more power to them. BUT it’s the “chance to win”, that really bothers me. It’s worse than patronizing- it’s not even pretending that bloggers have a legitimate, valuable product to offer.

  24. Nov 29, 2010

    I agree. If someone wants to blog for product, or write an article for $3, more power to them. BUT it’s the “chance to win”, that really bothers me. It’s worse than patronizing- it’s not even pretending that bloggers have a legitimate, valuable product to offer.

  25. Nov 29, 2010

    See, now, I’ve never heard of MomSelect. I’m going to have to check this MomSelect thing out now.

  26. Nov 29, 2010

    Yeah, I’d think you would care about your readership in that case as well. But also, the thing about that “you are going to mess it up for the community” argument is that, I have never really bought that at all. I have never really seen that as being true at all. I think there are masses of mommyblogs that are at a base level of pay, and then there are the few that break out into something that is rivaling a full time income. If you want to be one of those few that are going to be getting a full time income, you are in a totally different boat from those other groups. You aren’t viewing the going rate for a placement on a mommyblog at all. It would be like comparing scale rate actors to the going rate for leads. It just doesn’t work that way.

    And yeah, even if it did, it’s like, wha?? The market will pay what it will pay. If it can get quality writing for less, it will get quality writing for less. This is capitalism. It sucks. That’s just the way it is. I mean, start a union of blog writers if that’s what you want, but the patronizing posts are not going to solve anything.

  27. Nov 29, 2010

    I was thinking that, too, that it must have something to do with the rules governing sweepstakes. And yeah, whenever somebody reacts like that to questions, it’s a little suspicious.

  28. Nov 29, 2010

    I think a lot of new people who start blogging sign up for it, that’s how I heard about it, two years ago, I thought it was something I *should* do, like to find out about new business opportunities or something. I never did anything with it, but if you start blogging with an intent of turning your blog into a business, I think you will come across posts about Twitter Moms and “monetizing opportunities” and all that, so it’s not necessarily just people who are only doing product reviews, but it would be people who are looking to get into blogging as a business specifically.

  29. Cincy
    Nov 29, 2010

    Yeah, thanks a lot, Kelsey, for unleashing that monster on an unsuspecting audience. (shudder)

  30. Nov 29, 2010

    I think that the vast majority of bloggers who use Twitter Mom’s do NOT understand how this all works. I joined TM because I was new to this blogging community and was looking for tips and people to just follow my blog. So I think its a community for a very new blogger (which I still am but have picked up a lot of times along the way) and hobby bloggers who just take any all so called opportunities.

  31. Nov 30, 2010

    And this is where the “Vaseline twitter-party” on my list last week came from.
    You go on Twitter to chat and the first thing you see is “What is your favorite way to use Vaseline.” In seconds I thought about 5. And those 5 would have earned me the title of “Twitter-party crashing troll” which isn’t really that bad of a title to have.
    You click on the hashtag and between the serious party tweets you see people tweeting about how they use Vaseline to shoot ping-pong balls out of certain body parts and activists shouting out warnings against the bad, bad petroleum based product. It just doesn’t seem like the best way to market your product, it leaves to much room for error.
    Anna I know you receive a lot of flack for writing post like this, but it is so appreciated. It is so easy for anyone to take advantage of another person, not saying Twitter Mom is doing that, it helps to have a watch-dog protecting those who just don’t know.

  32. Nov 30, 2010

    I did this as well, though I never actually participated in anything. But yes, I would have been annoyed if I had done a bunch of promos and found out that my Google Page Rank had been compromised as a result, before I had any idea how that stuff worked. Because I really didn’t have any idea how any of that worked until, say, a year and a half into blogging or so. Not that the information is hidden, mind you, it’s just that when you start blogging you are kind of overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that you have to absorb all at once.

  33. Nov 30, 2010

    Honestly, Twitter parties are such a nuisance. They really are. I just despise them. I am not somebody who is going to sabotage them, either, because I don’t necessarily think that’s the solution — kind of for the same reason I wouldn’t boycott a business in most cases. But I have unfollowed the prominent Twitter party throwing people because I cannot stand it, I know they’ve built their business around this and — awesome for them that they’re making money, but I think their model sucks donkey dicks because it pollutes the stream and it exploits newer users who don’t know any better.

  34. Nov 30, 2010

    I love this post and not just because I hate Twitter parties. Although I do. I don’t like reading them or participating, unless they involve any of the Real Housewives franchises, like the commenter above. I too am a member of Twittermoms and every time I get one of those emails, I feel offended. I mean, at least the PR firms that pitch me are offering me free product for writing for them and at least back when I wrote from Mom Central I actually got a gift card every time.

  35. Nov 30, 2010

    I think the #nestlefamily and #iacorntour Twitter parties are great examples of how things can go terribly, terribly wrong for sponsors.

  36. Nov 30, 2010

    Yes, and at best it’s a superficial conversation read by only the people who are paid to participate and maybe a handful of other people, plus the people who are annoyed by it. It is rarely, in my experience, something that ends up being productive for a brand. I’m happy to be corrected on this point, because I don’t usually pay attention to Twitter parties, but I don’t think they end up being things that are productive for brands.

  37. Nov 30, 2010

    Well, I’m not a fan of Mom Central, either, but that’s another post. And point taken. 🙂

  38. Nov 30, 2010

    Really? I’m surprised you haven’t.

    This was a good read on Maria Bailey’s thoughts about mom bloggers: http://www.walletpop.com/blog/2010/11/23/how-mommy-bloggers-are-helping-pick-the-hottest-toys-of-christma/

  39. Nov 30, 2010

    When I first started my blog almost a year ago, I joined TwitterMoms because I thought it was the thing to do. And because they made it sound like by simply joining I would gets tons of readers. Now, all I get are a ton of tweets and emails about promos I am mostly not interested in. That said, Anna, in one of your comments up there you toughed on the use of “no follow” on links, and thank you so much, because I did not know what that meant! And now I do.

  40. Nov 30, 2010

    A good question is to ask people who participate in these Twitter parties:
    1. Do they purchase the product/service that was featured in the twitter party.
    and more importantly
    2. Do they remember the product.service that was featured in the Twitter party.

  41. Dec 1, 2010

    People are writing for a CHANCE to get a gift card as compensation? OH HELL NO. If I write a post that follows a client’s rules and meets all their deadlines but they decide after the fact that they don’t want to post it, I charge a kill fee AT LEAST. I do my job = I get paid, regardless of whether the client changes its mind/pulls the campaign/etc. I’m not a confrontational hard-ass by any means, but if I’ve done the work I’ll make damn sure I get paid. It’s nutso that a company is operating otherwise (although I guess it’s working for them if they’re still around?).

  42. Dec 1, 2010

    This is a really interesting discussion. I write for TwitterMoms fairly frequently and enjoy it, though I can see how people would not. I think that some of your information on how the program works might be a little off. First of all, they do require every post to include a FTC disclosure statement and at least claim to check each post during the review process (I have no idea if they actually do, but that’s their business). Second, most of the promotions state that the first X number of people will receive the gift card. I personally only participate in promotions that fit my blog theme and for which I know I can meet the deadline to be in the top. To me, getting paid $50 for a post is great. Many of the offers I get from private companies are $5-$10.
    I also found it really interesting that you said this model hurts the bloggers with ugly sites and bad grammar. No offense, but I’m pretty sure those people won’t become successful professional bloggers by any means. Any media outlet will tell you that grammar and spelling are #1. I have little sympathy for someone writing on a computer that misspells half their post.

  43. Dec 2, 2010

    Having mulled it all over for a few days, I think the seemingly “exploitative” methodology here speaks to a larger, and maybe more concerning, phenomenon. While the ins and outs of the program don’t need to be rehashed, the fact that such a program exists proves one thing: while marketing/PR/advertising is not sure just how to use mommybloggers, they know they should use them and they sure have found ways to use them without fair compensation. So many of these marketing plans seem to “fail” since the inner working of this media can be tricky, yet there seems to be no end of bloggers willing to sign up for this stuff. I don’t fault corporations for using this tool, nor bloggers for doing what they think they need to do turn their work into a viable business, but it is interesting to me that while the science of using the social media is not well understood, getting people to do your work for free is well established. File this under: Stuff to remember if i ever try and do this “for real.”

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