Top 10 Unwritten Rules About Church Social Media- Part 1 with Seth Muse

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Join Kenny today on the Church Communications Podcast as he talks with Seth Muse going over the top 10 rules about church social media. These are tips that you are not going to want to miss!

Seth Muse:
Instagram: @sethmuse

Kenny Jahng:
Instagram: @kennyjahng
LinkedIn: Kenny Jahng

Church Communications:
Facebook: @churchcomm




Kenny Jahng:                         Welcome to the Church Communications Podcast. I’m Katie Allred.

Katie Allred:                           And I’m Kenny Jahng.

Kenny Jahng:                         We want to help you become a better church communicator.

Katie Allred:                           And this is the place we’re going to talk about strategies and best practices for your church.

Kenny Jahng:                         Let’s get started.

Kenny Jahng:                         Hey, friends, it’s Kenny Jahng with the Church Communications Podcast. I am Kenny Jahng co-founder, not co-founder, co-owner of the group, coming to you live across the interwebs with a friend of ours from the community, Seth Muse. Seth Muse is in the house. Welcome to the show today, Seth.

Seth Muse:                              Hey, what’s going on man? Hey everybody.

Kenny Jahng:                         It is good to have you. We are missing Katie Allred, who is just one fantastic partner. I just spent a whole week in St. Petersburg, Seth with her dreaming of planning things for 2020. Really excited about what we have planned for our members and our community coming up next year.

Kenny Jahng:                         Seth, you’re part of that, and we thought we’d bring you on to help.

Kenny Jahng:                         One of the things I love to share with people is, so many of the different things that communicators, I guess, best practices, but sometimes it’s also things that we should avoid, Right? Guard rails for our vocation. One thing that caught my eye, Seth, was a fantastic blog post that you put up recently. And it was called The 10 Unwritten Rules of Church Social Media.

Kenny Jahng:                         It was kind of like Fight Club rules. You know, one of those things.

Seth Muse:                              Yeah. Yes.

Seth Muse:                              And the first one is that you don’t talk about the unwritten rules, so we’re breaking the rule here, but yeah and there’s probably more than that, it’s just like 10 things I came up with that are just, we don’t ever talk about these, but they’re etiquette things or land mines you don’t want to step on, and it happens a lot, and people react to them, and you’re like, “What’s going on?” So I wanted to actually just call those things out.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, it’s one of those, like you do things like this happen across the list. They’re all cringe-worthy, and sometimes you wonder is it because they’re a newbie to social media and the digital world, and the “netiquette”, do you know when that word netiquette came out, like 10 years ago?

Seth Muse:                              No. I like it. I had not heard that.

Kenny Jahng:                         It was one of those really nerdy things people was using a decade ago, but yes, there are definitely unwritten rules. Things that you really shouldn’t be doing yourselves. There might be some that I think might be debatable.

Kenny Jahng:                         So let’s go down, I thought today what we’d do is, we’d share the first half of the list, and this would be a two-part series where the second half of the list will take next week, in next week’s episode, because there’s enough to chat about, this first five on the list.

Kenny Jahng:                         So why don’t we go down the list? What’s the first unwritten rule, that we shouldn’t be doing?

Seth Muse:                              The first one is probably my favorite one. Because it’s so debatable, and it really doesn’t matter. It’s, don’t like your own posts. It’s like when you post something as your church or as yourself, and then you as that entity that posted it like it. And it just makes you look lame. It doesn’t really have a lot of effect of the rhythm or anything like that. You can do it if you want to, but it just makes you look a little bit like, it makes you look a little lame, a little silly. I’d give myself this huge high five, or whatever after accomplishing nothing except posting.

Kenny Jahng:                         I must say, Seth, it is a rule that you shouldn’t be liking posts, but how many of us have actually done it ourselves, and let me just go a little further, I actually think it was on someone’s post recently. It was one of those; you might be a church communicator if you actually liked your posts from all your other accounts that you’ve set up and manage. So you can get 10 likes out of the gate because you’re logging in and logging out and stuff.

Seth Muse:                              Yeah, it is a common practice, like if you post something as a church to go, “Okay, everybody on staff, go like it and share it.” And you know that does help. That kind of stuff when they share it, it does help a little, but honestly for you to like it yourself as the church doesn’t really do much. For you to share it again as the church, I don’t know why you’d do that, but some people do that kind of stuff, and it’s like, well that’s okay, that’s one like, but we all know that Facebook weights all the other reactions and things that are more meaningful than just the like button, but it doesn’t really affect it negatively or positively it’s just, Wow my church liked its own post. Kind of patting itself on the back.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, it’s a little bit odd. Right?

Seth Muse:                              Weird.

Kenny Jahng:                         I will tell you there are people, this is, I think a debatable thing because there’s a whole string of people that would say, yes you should be liking your own stuff, and I got into a debate at one point, it was like one of those after conference at the restaurant debates where one guys was telling me, look it’s like when you run for student government in middle school or something like that, and that everyone has to vote, and there could be that tie-breaker, and the guy that loses is the one that didn’t vote for themselves they voted for the opponent or somebody else. Why wouldn’t you like your own stuff? That’s what they came in saying.

Seth Muse:                              Wow.

Kenny Jahng:                         Right.

Seth Muse:                              Well, what are we voting for? It’s like what’s the competition?

Seth Muse:                              I know there are competitions, but I don’t know that’s funny. That is funny to me. I’ve never heard that analogy. P

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         General, please, I guess it is this little sign of desperation, but if you’re patting yourself on the back, at least don’t do it as the first, second, third like for your own post.

Seth Muse:                              You’re right. Desperation is the right word. It looks desperate. It’s like trying so hard, and I get it, just get those likes from another place.

Kenny Jahng:                         Okay. Number two. What is number two on the list for you?

Seth Muse:                              Don’t get political. This is a tough line for a lot of people to draw, and when you get political, you’re opening yourself to a lot of conversations that you’re probably not equipped to have. Not only if this was just your own account, just personally, you may not be equipped to have these conversations, but now you’re representing the church, and the church doesn’t need to get dragged into this political debate. When’s the last time somebody on your social media feed was like, “You know what I never thought of that. You’re right. I am now going to vote a different way.”

Kenny Jahng:                         How many times have you ever gotten into a discussion on a thread about politics, and left it at some point, and said, “I’m glad I got into that debate on social media because that was a healthy debate.”

Seth Muse:                              Yeah. Healthy debate is an oxymoron for the internet most of the time anyway. I have seen good discussions take place, but I’ve never seen anybody’s opinion really change. There’s been respectful conversations, and dialogues I’ve seen among friends, and it’s really nice to see that, but again as a church, I think you could put your energy into other things that are a little bit more valuable that gets the spiritual ball down the field for things that the church is really about. And whatever you think about, like where a church should land on the political debate, my personal opinion is that we shouldn’t really be that involved in that discussion publicly like that, but privately for sure, whatever. But that’s just my opinion.

Seth Muse:                              But I think that for you as communications director or someone who’s running social media, that’s an easy way to quickly get rogue and get in the weeds, and drag your church into some things that you’re saying on behalf of the church that, I mean lawyers could involved later. You never know how that’s going to go, and I don’t like playing it safe, I’m just not that kind of persons, but when you’re representing the church it’s a good idea to really consider who you represent organizationally and consider what they would have you do especially in that kind of, I just don’t know that it’s really beneficial to get into too much there.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         It’s just one of those things you want to pause before you actually hit submit and put that comment or status update up there. Now there are people who will show up and politicize a post that you put up, and that are trying to basically incite some sort of drama or discourse on your social accounts that you probably don’t want to entertain as a church.

Kenny Jahng:                         What’s one suggestion, Seth, that you would give to church social media managers where there are people that might be attacking religion or Christianity’s world views or just trolling the accounts and bringing politics into it. How would you suggest might, do you delete all those comments? Do you just ignore them? Is there something else that you can do?

Seth Muse:                              I think it’s a person, as long as you can verify this is a real person and not a bot or something random crazy. Always whenever I get negative comments, I always run them through my database first just to see is this a person that goes here, do they even have the right church. Just some checkpoints before you do that. But I wouldn’t delete it unless it was just belligerent, even then I have a little longer fuse than a lot of people on this because I want to see how I can help that person. So I would say, always pause and don’t react. You want to respond. When it’s a negative comment like that, when it’s pretty bad then I would definitely always err towards we hear you, we don’t agree necessarily, but if we want to continue this conversation let’s do it offline, and then if they’re not willing to do that, then you can delete, then you can hide comments or whatever it is you need to do.

Seth Muse:                              But I would involve your next up leader as well, just to let them know that that’s going on. If they’ve given you permission to have those conversations that level then go ahead, but if not, then definitely run that through them before you respond.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, absolutely. I love that last little shift where, if you want to respond you want to acknowledge them, and publicly signal to other people that you are hearing them, but you want to shift that conversation offline, you want to invite them into a conversation offline. And as long as you put that call to action out there, it shows that you’re being responsive. It shows that you’re trying to be empathetic, and more importantly, it shows that you’re trying to be engaging in that healthy discourse, and obviously text those not, capture everything that you typically want. Especially in the emotionally charged thing. So I think that’s a great tip.

Seth Muse:                              And today’s political climate is so polarizing and it’s like as soon as you can take that to a face to face people are nicer, people are calmer, get them there as fast as you can, and I think that if you’re just deleting and banning that kind of stuff, I think that says a lot about where you really are as a person, understanding the great commission. These are people. Our job is to deal with difficult people. Jesus had to deal his share of difficult people, and we shouldn’t shy away from that. If it’s something you don’t want to deal with you might be in the wrong business and in the wrong role.

Kenny Jahng:                         Exactly.

Seth Muse:                              Because we deal with people all day man.

Kenny Jahng:                         All day long. All-day long.

Kenny Jahng:                         Okay. Number three on the list. What is it, Seth?

Seth Muse:                              It goes into this a lot. It’s stay positive.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes.

Seth Muse:                              Stay positive.

Seth Muse:                              Nobody likes negative or even some of us have a sarcastic personality just naturally and it’s easy for us to make light of situations, in a critical kind of way, and what might be sarcastically funny in person doesn’t translate to the internet for a lot of the reason we just talked about, but generally, as a church, I’m not saying getting away from talking about sin, or talking about the need for salvation or anything like that, but I’m talking about in your social media feeds and things. Keep it positive.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah.

Seth Muse:                              Because if you’re not, you’re not a welcome voice when they, in their feed if you’re going to be negative all the time. There’s plenty of things to be upset about, and I don’t think your church should be one of them.

Kenny Jahng:                         Absolutely. I think that voice, which should I think, and this is like a sidebar. I think the tone and personality of how you represent your brand online is something that’s important and you have to discuss across your team. That leadership must understand and agree, some just basic tenants of what type of representation you’re going to have. Because that brand impression is really important. People see you online, take you as a representation of the offline experience, and when they come and visit you offline, or engage in any of the programs, it needs to be congruent.

Seth Muse:                              Yep.

Kenny Jahng:                         So that’s one of those things that it’s really important, and staying positive always, I can’t think of any use case scenario where not staying positive is in your favor. Staying positive is in your favor to support and supplement every other brand touchpoint that you have going across the ecosystem.

Seth Muse:                              And if you’re a story brand person, you understand that when people are coming to your church, they’re looking for a guide not a hero.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes.

Seth Muse:                              Heroes are negative; they’ve got a problem, right? They’re dealing with issues. That’s a negative outlook. They’re trying to change their world. Guides are not negative; guides are positive. They have it figured out, I’ve done this before, and if you want to help that person, then your position is to be positive. It’s to be I’ve got this figured out. Not that you’re perfect, or you don’t have problems, but we need to be authentic, but the idea is that I’m not constantly reminding you of all the things that are out there. I’m not constantly reminding you of all the things that could go wrong. I’m not just spewing this negativity.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes.

Seth Muse:                              And making you feel down. I’m trying to help you get through it.

Seth Muse:                              And we’ll deal with it. I go to my own guide to help me with it when I get to be the hero for whatever, and the church can do the same, but it’s not our people, and so on social media when people are interacting with us there it’s just a smart move to keep things light, keep things positive. Because then you’re a welcome voice into their life on a regular basis.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes. Absolutely.

Seth Muse:                              Building a platform.

Kenny Jahng:                         And that again, Katie and I went through certification this year for story brand as guides, and I think that’s one of the really, it’s a simple, intuitive concept. There really isn’t that much secret sauce behind that part of it, that you need that, but you let your audience be the hero not you. It’s not about you; it’s about them. But that little pivot has such wide implications for the ability to engage your audience and draw them in so I love it. I love it.

Kenny Jahng:                         So that voice is really important.

Kenny Jahng:                         Well, let’s go to number four Seth, what’s four on your list.

Seth Muse:                              Number four is probably the most important one, and it’s just a basic rule of social media. It’s to like and share as much of your people’s stuff as you can, but be careful how you do it. Be careful commenting.

Kenny Jahng:                         Can we break that down into two parts?

Seth Muse:                              Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         So you’re advocating that literally your people’s stuff meaning your volunteers, your donors, your congregation members, that you are actively seeing their stuff in your feed because they’re following you, and should you be following personal accounts from your church corporate account?

Seth Muse:                              I think yes. I think you should follow businesses in your neighborhood. I think you should follow personal accounts of people that go there or visit. And it takes a little bit of understanding; if you’re at a bigger church, it’s going to be harder to gauge who’s really here, who’s a guest. You can’t really get into all that. So you have to keep it generic in how you do this. That’s why I’m saying be careful how you do this.

Seth Muse:                              You might have somebody that visits your church, liked your Instagram, and your policy is, I’ll just follow theirs back, then they have a picture of their girls night, and everybody’s got wine in their hand, and there, “Woo.” And your church isn’t down with that, but then your church is seeing it and going, I like it. It’s like well if that’s not within your church’s realm you may not like or comment on that one because then you’re the church commenting on their girls night, which is like, oo I didn’t know God was watching. It freaks them out a little bit. So you’ve got to watch that relationship there, and how you do it.

Seth Muse:                              So I limit mine too when people post photos of their kids, I’ll say something like, they’re great, they got a new drawing, oh that’s awesome, way to go, just encouraging things, or when people compliment us or share our stuff, I’ll comment on it and go, “We’d love to have so and so here, you’re sharing this with.” Little small comments like that to let them know we’re there. It’s not really going to generate a ton of conversation, but it might create conversations within their groups.

Kenny Jahng:                         Absolutely.

Seth Muse:                              If I can stoke the fire of conversation a little bit in their comments section on Instagram, Facebook, or whatever, and then back out and let my people do their work. I think that’s ideal. Any time we’ve had people take pictures of their kids that go their black belt at TaeKwonDo or showed a video of their son who ran a touchdown. I’ll share that to our church account, and just like congratulate Billy, he ran in a 40-yard touchdown, it’s pretty awesome. And people are like, “Yay, way to go.” I’ll share it in stories in Facebook or whatever, and people love that kind of thing. Just spreading the community. And now with Facebook groups being able to segment people in, it’s a lot easier to do that there than it was before because you have a group of people that are, you can set it to a private group so not everyone can just see everything that’s going on.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, and then I guess the rule here is that you can do that kind of stuff that’s affirmational that’s encouraging, but the commenting is, you just need to be a little bit more sensitive because you’re commenting from the institution’s account. It is “The Church,” which represents Christianity; it represents religion, it represents Jesus or God to many people. You don’t have the control, you have influence in terms of behavior over time, but you don’t have control of what baggage people might have with all those different topics coming to your church, and especially those that might not be initiated, or are unchurched on their friends network so seeing commenting is just one those things that, I think for me some times I’ll just flip to my personal account and I’ll comment as my personal account versus the corporate.

Seth Muse:                              Yeah, you can do that.

Kenny Jahng:                         And I think that’s a personal relationship, and that’s not representing the institution or fancy term the federal headship of the congregation, and so I love that thing. You need to be social, but you’ve got to be careful.

Seth Muse:                              And I think that if you’re using the church’s account to comment or do some of this, you have to use a little common sense like just don’t be weird, right? The church can be weird about stuff sometimes, or awkward, just don’t be weird. Think about it as if the church commented on this for me would I think that’s odd, or a little awkward, or weird or something like that, and maybe don’t do that. But that’s a tough line to ride there.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah.

Seth Muse:                              It really is. It’s like you’re going up to the line and seeing where it is, and I think that you just have to know your culture, know your people, but most churches are not massive megachurches, you know everybody, you know who you are, so it’s a rule that you can tell who’s who, and you know who you can share, and you can’t, and you know who’s kids are foster kids, and kids you shouldn’t share, or whatever. You know that. In a bigger church, you have to be careful, a little more, maybe a little safer, and dial it back.

Kenny Jahng:                         And a good rule of thumb for me is, anytime someone comments or shares or posts something about a church experience, about your church in particular, about something that happened at church or at a church event or with a group from the church like small group, a life group. That’s the stuff you want to repost in stories and you want to celebrate them, and you want to just encourage them and go wild with those stickers, right? And just really have fun with it.

Seth Muse:                              Absolutely.

Kenny Jahng:                         Because they made the first move to call out the church, right. Especially if they’re tagging you.

Seth Muse:                              And even if it’s like kids, they put a picture of their kids out. It’s like they’re here showing you what’s going on in this group and so it’s like they tagged you in it. It’s like a; if you know your people, you have to know them, that can be okay. You just have to be aware.

Kenny Jahng:                         Absolutely.

Kenny Jahng:                         And it goes with my principle that we teach churches is that there’s this paparazzi preview principle that what you want to do is take the positive part of paparazzi, and that is leaving no stone unturned. Right? Paparazzi leave it so that you don’t have to have any creativity. You don’t need to think. It actually shows not tells what the culture is like.

Kenny Jahng:                         So when someone is actually showing a picture of what it’s like, of community like church life. That’s showing not telling. You want to use that to your advantage as a church communicator to show everyone else how dynamic your church life is. Again it is very powerful.

Seth Muse:                              It’s Powerful.

Kenny Jahng:                         That I think is the place where it’s kosher to go all in, especially when other user-generated content about your church that’s positive.

Kenny Jahng:                         Okay, let’s move on to the last rule that we’re going to talk about today in our list, right. We’ve been going over “The Ten Unwritten Rules of Church Social Media for Communicators.” What’s the last one on the list? I love this one.

Seth Muse:                              The last one is, don’t spam your wall.

Kenny Jahng:                         What?

Kenny Jahng:                         It’s my wall, come on.

Seth Muse:                              And it’s changed a little because I wrote this blog a few months back, several months back, and this is, now with the way the algorithm works on Instagram and Facebook, you can post quite a bit, and at any time, and it could or could not be seen, whereas before if you posted six photos in the next 10 minutes, people might see all six of those photos in the next 10 minutes, and it’s not so much that way anymore, but it’s still if you interact with a person quite a bit, or they interact with your church quite a bit then if you post six photos then in a shorter time than probably what they would like they’re going to see all those things. And then if you’re one of those churches that has everybody on staff share the same photo or the same six photos, and they all follow them they’re going to see it from them too, and it’s going to be like, “Oh my gosh. These people are crazy, and I’m tired of seeing the same image over and over.” And then they might block you or delete you or mute you now; you can do on Instagram.

Seth Muse:                              But it’s just a form of spam. It’s like when somebody’s like, “Hey, I want to show you all my pictures from vacation. Come over and we’ll look at them.” And you’re like, “Yeah, I’m going to be busy on whatever night you’ve decided to do that.” It’s just kind of annoying and it overwhelms people because with social media, most consumers want to just do what they want to scroll. They want to consume a lot at a time.

Kenny Jahng:                         Absolutely.

Seth Muse:                              And most of them feel like, I’m missing something and I know that Instagram and Facebook are not showing me everything because it’s not chronological so I’m trying to get through it as fast as I can, which is impossible, but there’s this back in the head mentality we have of just get through as much of it as you can, and just scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll. And when we post a bunch of the same thing, it’s like, “Dude, you’re wasting my time. I already saw your photo move on.”

Seth Muse:                              And then you become annoying, and it’s like I didn’t mean to I just have a lot of great things to share with you. So posting once a day on some of these is kind of enough, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Kenny Jahng:                         And again, if you have so much content like that, post different images different content about the same thing on different channels. Take advantage of the carousel format that allows up to 10 images on Instagram, Facebook the same thing. You have the ability to do things. Do photo albums on Facebook; you don’t need to post directly to your wall.

Kenny Jahng:                         So there’s tons of ways to do that stuff appropriately, but don’t spam your wall.

Kenny Jahng:                         Okay. That’s great.

Kenny Jahng:                         So Seth, today we’ve gone through the first 10 unwritten rules of church social media. It’s almost as if, honestly, there are so many social media managers for churches that get handed the job, but they don’t get that rule book of online responsibilities to go with it.

Seth Muse:                              Absolutely.

Kenny Jahng:                         You’ve just got to trial by fire, learn what is acceptable, and what’s not, and I think that that top five list that we went through is fantastic.

Kenny Jahng:                         Next time we’re going to go through rules six through ten, and this is one of the things that I love is that, hey, these are not the most definitive rules in the universe. We’re looking for input and discussion, and also to have a little bit of fun with it, right. There’s definitely room for fun. We’d love to see what you’re unwritten rules for social media are yourself, so do us a favor. Drop some of your ideas in the comments; you could be self-incriminating and tell us what you did to get in the hot seat yourself.

Seth Muse:                              Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         Or tell us some of stuff, the wild and crazy things that you’ve seen online that other churches are doing. You don’t need to call them out, but you can share with us some of the funny stories that you’re seeing other people are doing.

Seth Muse:                              Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         Seth, and then six to ten. Give us a little bit of a preview, or just a little tease, what can we expect in that last half of the list?

Seth Muse:                              Well, we’ve got a content rule to abide by. We’ve got some thoughts about automation. Maybe digging a little bit deeper about how to handle photos of kids. And then just a couple more like some things that are really near and dear to my heart, like one of the things we didn’t mention is like…

Kenny Jahng:                         Star Wars, is it all about Star Wars? You’ve got a rule about Star Wars.

Seth Muse:                              It’s about Star Wars and how to construct your own lightsaber, and why that’s important.

Seth Muse:                              Just like posting and liking comments, we talked about liking your people’s stuff. Liking their photos late at night as the church is a little creepy. You know, that kind of stuff.

Seth Muse:                              We’ll get into some of that.

Kenny Jahng:                         I can’t wait. I can’t wait.

Kenny Jahng:                         So folks, if you liked today’s episode, please drop some comments, and let us add to this list. We want this list to grow. I think we’re having a little bit of fun time. It’s one of those things where we say, “Hey, look take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously.” Seth is definitely one of the guys in the community that fits that bill, and I’m looking forward to next week, Seth, when we get together again and go over the rest of the list.

Kenny Jahng:                         Until then, Seth, what’s the one big idea, or takeaway that you think everyone should have coming out of this episode in particular?

Seth Muse:                              Well, I think you said it. Because what we do is serious, we can’t take ourselves too seriously. We have a big job, and that involves this whole plethora of means to get it done, and sometimes it is a meme, sometimes it is a joke, sometimes it is something silly, but sometimes it’s something very serious. It’s like can’t ignore the side where it’s like, “Yeah, we kind of know these are rules, let’s talk about that a little bit.” We’re weird sometimes. That’s okay. We do some weird stuff. Let’s talk about the weird stuff we do.

Kenny Jahng:                         So we’ll talk about more weirdness next week here on the Church Communications Podcast. In the meantime, I invite you guys to check out our community. If you’re not part of our Facebook group with 21 thousand church communicators across the globe, you’ve got to check that out. It’s the Church Communications Facebook group. If you haven’t checked out our website, our blog is on fire. We are now publishing almost three to four times a week with tons of tips, tutorials, and just great content to help you become a better communicator. Get on the email list there, so you’re not missing out on anything, and all the social channels. Make sure that you’re following us so that we want to interact with you. We want to get to know you better, and next week we’ll be back with another episode following up with the rules numbers six through ten of the “Unwritten Rules for Social Media.”

Kenny Jahng:                         I’m Kenny Jahng, and Seth Muse here checking out for the week. Remember be social. Stay Social.


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