Key Themes and Trends from the Social Media Marketing World Conference
In today’s episode, I want to share seven trends people were talking about at the Social Media Marketing World mega-conference recently held in San Diego.
Social Media Marketing World is probably one of the biggest social media conferences in the world.
Seven main themes came about from the conference:
- Facebook Armageddon: Changes have shaken up things.
- Be Human: It’s time for you to be real. Ask questions, and respond personally.
- Going Live: There are more platforms to choose from now.
- Episodic Video: These are stories on steroids.
- Stories Style Content: Design sequences that take your audience on a journey, and stories that provide background or behind-the-scenes action.
- Bots and Messenger Marketing: Bots may not be real, but they can be useful in blogging to notify people of new information and to ask them questions.
- Blogging is Back: People know written content is not going away.
Should you do bots, go live, or create episodic content? Or blog, vlog, or do a podcast? Which social network should you focus on? Whatever you decide, make sure you don’t build your entire business around a specific social network.
Links and Resources for 7 Social Media Trends I Noticed at Social Media Marketing World:
Examples of Trends in Social Media
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In today’s episode I want to share with you seven key themes and trends that I saw talked about at Social Media Marketing World a few weeks ago in San Diego. Over the last few weeks in this podcast, I’ve been sharing parts of my talk from Social Media Marketing World. I’m not sure whether I actually told you that there were parts of my talk, but episode 237 I talked about collaborations, episode 238 I talked about maintaining your archives, and episode 239 I talked about building a more engaged audience.
They were three of about nine things that I had in my talk from Social Media Marketing World this year, but today what I want to do is to report back on some of the things I heard other people talking about at the conference this year, both from the stage but also more importantly to me from conversations that I had with people in the halls outside of sessions.
For those of you who don’t know, Social Media Marketing World is probably one of the biggest social media conferences in the world. It happened in San Diego over the end of February start of March of this year and it’s a conference I’ve been to. I think this is my fourth or fifth time going and it’s one of those conferences that I go to, to pick up on the trends and to get a sense from what people are doing. You hear about the new stuff but you also hear about the stuff that people are actually taking and applying. Sometimes you hear about all the new things that have been happening, but then you go back the next year and you hear how people have applied those things and for me that’s when I particularly pay attention. If something was mentioned the last year as something new, I kind of watch it. But when I go back the second year and I see that people have taken that new thing and done something really powerful with it and really interesting with it, that’s when my ears really perk up and I take on some of those things.
Today in this episode I want to talk about seven of the main themes that came about from the conference, particularly these things coming out of what people were calling Facebook Armageddon, and that is the first thing that I do want to talk about. Facebook made a lot of changes in the last month or so and they have rocked the world of social media marketing. A lot of what I want to talk about today ripples out from that and how people are responding to that.
If you want to pick up on the latest trends of social media marketing, this episode is for you. I will say next week’s episode I’m going to build upon these seven things and talk about how you work out which of the things you should be doing, which is something that I know many people are wondering as well because there’s always new stuff, there’s always new things that you could focus your time and how do you make that decision. That’s next week’s episode.
Alright, let’s get into the seven themes I noticed at Social Media Marketing World this year. The things I want to talk about today, some of them are trends or emerging trends and some of them are just conversations that were happening in the halls. The first one really is more of a conversation that was happening and it was a theme that came up again, and again, and again. Almost every session I went to mentioned Facebook Armageddon. Now, not everyone used that exact term but there was a sense that people’s worlds have been rocked particularly in the last couple of months, although it goes back the last couple of years really about some of the changes that Facebook is continuing to make in their algorithm.
This is not new. This is something that has been rocking our world as social media marketers for years now. As more and more people are trying to use Facebook for marketing purposes, there’s more and more messages going in, Facebook having to deal with that. A couple of months ago now, they announced that they’re going to reduce the messages getting through organically even more than previously from pages in particular. They’re going to elevate more real-life conversations which is something I want to talk a little bit about later.
This was something that really is impacting a lot of people. I talked to a number of people in the halls who feel like their whole business has been decimated over the last year or so over these changes and some people, their reaction to this is like, “This is the nail in the coffin for my business unless I find some new way to drive traffic, to build engagement, and to support my business.”
People seem really split on Facebook’s changes. There were some who were really despondent, confused, hurt, and angry that Facebook have made these changes, and there were others who were more philosophical about it. One of the things I heard from a number of people is that, as hard as it is, it actually was needed. Facebook needed to make some changes because Facebook is being overtaken by marketers and their messages. This will hurt Facebook. It will hurt the average day user who uses Facebook to connect with their friends. If all they’re seeing is pages manipulating the algorithm and presenting content that really isn’t personal to them, then if people aren’t having a positive experience on Facebook, then they’re not going to go back, which in the long run hurts the marketers.
Some people were quite philosophical that this is a needed thing and that I guess really we need to change our focus as marketers. This is the big takeaway that I think both groups of people—those who were angry and those who were philosophical—everyone has really come to the same point that we need to change our approach. A lot of what I want to talk about in the other six or so things that I want to talk about today really comes out of that people are attempting to move their efforts away from focusing purely upon Facebook or doing what they were doing on Facebook in the same way.
Some people are still trying to get the organic reach and I’m going to talk about one way that you can do that a little later, but a lot of people are now focusing their effort on other platforms and upon blogging itself, which is something I’ll talk a little about later. This is I guess the big message is that we just can’t keep doing what we’ve always done on Facebook and really this is something you would have heard me talking about previously. We can’t build our whole business around any social network because we don’t control if we don’t own it, they can change the rules, we need to build our own asset, and we need to leverage these social networks as long as they last for us. That’s something we’ll talk about in next week’s episode as well. Number one theme was Facebook Armageddon.
Number two theme was a really massive theme at this conference. It’s a response to Facebook Armageddon in many ways. It was from the opening keynote right through almost every session I heard. I heard speakers talking about being real, the need to be human, the need to focus upon engagement. This is something I talked about in my session quite extensively and I talked about in last week’s episode as well.
There were two main reasons that people were arguing to be more real on social media. Firstly, it stands out. There’s so much noise, there’s so much automation, there’s so much repurposing of content, there’s so many tools now that are creating content and they’re not even human beings. Really, what is standing out in this very noisy impersonal space of social media, what stands out is people being people, people being vulnerable, people being truly interested in engagement and relationship.
This is why I did last week’s episode of the podcast, I wanted to really encourage you to show up, to show up predictably, to show up mentally, and to show up randomly. Those three things that I taught last week are really important. It’s not enough anymore just to be broadcasting—using tools—your messages. You need to show up, you need to be present and really take an approach and return to the roots of social media.
Brian Solis gave a great keynote on this particular topic, he looked back to the roots of social media and really a lot of what happened back in the day when I started out in blogging and in social media was people talking to people, it was a very conversational space, and this is why it was called social media because it was incredibly social. People responded to comments, people left comments on blogs, people shared other people’s work, people built upon other people’s ideas, there was this collaborative kind of feel about social media back then.
People were using social media to have conversations, to listen as much as they talked. Things have come and changed. Social media has become more of a megaphone-type experience. People shouting at each other and not really creating space to listen. One of the reasons that engagement is so important at the moment is that it does stand out in the midst of all the bots and all the automations and all the every three minutes a new tweet coming out of many accounts these days. What stands out is people actually engaging, asking questions, responding in personal ways.
That’s the first reason that this theme is there but the second reason is purely from a strategic point of view. Conversation is cutting through the algorithms and Facebook has told us in their latest updates that they are prioritizing engagement, they’re prioritizing conversation. If you want organic cut-through from Facebook today–I still want some, I’m not going to focus all my energy upon Facebook anymore but I still would appreciate any traffic that Facebook can give me, any cut-through that I can get–if you want that cut-through, Facebook is prioritizing conversations. They’ve told us that if you get long-form comments on your posts, on your Facebook page, it’s much more likely to be seen by other people. If you get people sharing your post with other people, that’s much more likely to be getting you extra reach. If Facebook sees on your posts people talking to each other–not just leaving a long-form comment but responding to other people’s comments–this gets more reach as well.
You can see there they’ve already told us numerous times that people talking to people is what it’s all about. On your Facebook page, you want to persist with Facebook pages, then what I encourage you to do is focus as much of your attention upon getting conversations going and getting people talking not just to you but talking to each other as much as possible.
I tested this on my Facebook Live a couple of weeks ago. I started off my live with a question. I said right from the front I asked the question. The question was designed to get people to leave a longer comment. Now this is a bit of a switch in focus. A couple of years ago, you just wanted people to leave any comment and there was a kind of a technique that many of us used back in the day where we would ask people to respond with one word to answer a question. We wanted people to answer with anything at all because that was getting more cut-through back then.
That’s not good enough anymore. If people want to leave a one-word comment it’s not really a signal to Facebook that people are engaging with you. Ask more detailed questions, ask people questions that are designed to get them to leave a few sentences, a paragraph or two. The deeper the conversation, the better. Ask questions that are designed not just to leave a question responding to you but talking to each other in some ways. Getting your readers to help one another, getting your readers to tag each other, to share with each other. This is something I’ve been trying to do more on my Facebook page over the last week or so and I’ve noticed that it does work a little bit more. I’m encouraging my readers to share the content with each other.
Now you can’t say the word ‘share’ so you got to be a bit creative about this. For example, there was a post a couple of weeks ago in my photography site where I said, “Everyone knows someone who needs to read this.” That’s a very round-about way of saying share it and what I notice is a lot more people were sharing that and tagging each other in that way.
Anything you can do to kind of build the conversation into your updates, anything you can do to build that sort of share this type of feel to it without getting explicit. You don’t want to say, “Leave a comment.” You don’t want to say, “Please share this.” Those are signals to Facebook that you’re trying to manipulate their algorithm so you kind of be a little backward in the way you do that and imply those types of things. But asking questions that will get a deeper engagement is worth putting your time into.
It’s also worth noting that Facebook have told us that this approach is going to be the emphasis of all of their products. It’s not just Facebook Pages where this is happening. This is going to be rolled out, and it probably already has been into Groups, into Facebook Live, into Facebook Stories, and—if it hasn’t already come, and some people believe it has—over onto Instagram as well. So if you’re getting those longer-form comments, if you’re getting people replying to each other in comments, these are signals to Instagram as well that are going to get you more reach too.
It’s a great way to stand out being human, being real, being engaging, but it’s also purely from an algorithmic point of view, a strategic point of view, it’s well worth of doing as well. Being human, being real was the number two trend that I’d say and I kind of feel weird saying that because we’ve been teaching on ProBlogger since 2004. It’s all about engagement. It’s one of the pillars of ProBlogging that we’ve been teaching for years, the importance of building engagement, of building community. It’s so much better than just getting empty eyeballs to your site. Do make it an emphasis going forward for yourself.
The number three thing that was a trend, and it was a trend that built upon last year’s conference, is live video. There was a big focus again this year on it. It isn’t a new thing. It certainly has been the theme over the last couple of Social Media Marketing Worlds but one of the big trends this year is that we’re now beginning to see more and more people create shows instead of just going live randomly.
One of the things that I heard taught again and again is that you need a weekly show or a daily show or you need some kind of a regular show, some people know that you’re going to show up at a certain time. It’s build into what I taught in last week’s episode about engaging predictably. You want to build that into your editorial calendar, but on top of that start throwing the random shows as well, the random lives.
Luria from Live Streaming Pros is a big believer in this. You’ve got your show but you also want to go live from time to time to share some of the back story, to share what’s happening. The combination of the regular show and the random kind of going live is a really powerful type thing. We saw more and more people actually talking about the studios that they’ve got now, so we’re seeing more and more people at the higher end setup purpose-built studios, that’s probably beyond some people, but we’re certainly seeing the emphasis upon the quality of video production going up. More and more people buying purpose-built lights, better cameras, and using systems that are very powerful to run their studios as well.
There’s also a focus this year upon not just Facebook Live but also more focus upon YouTube Live, which seems to be growing as well. The beauty of going live on YouTube is that your video then becomes a part of your video library on YouTube. Videos on YouTube do seem to have a longer life. If you go live on Facebook today, you get people viewing that video for the next day or two, and then Facebook doesn’t show it to anyone after that. People have to go digging looking for the video. But on YouTube, if you do a live video today, it will continue to get traffic to it indefinitely if it’s a good video, if it’s ranking well. YouTube is more of a search engine so people are actually going to YouTube searching for the videos. There’s perhaps less cut-through when you are going live on YouTube, but more evergreen kind of long tail views of your video as well.
Also there was a bit of an emphasis this year on Instagram Live as well. That is a platform that seems to be growing for some people as well. Since the conference, I noticed a number of my friends are using it.
It was really great to meet the team from Ecamm Live at this year’s conference. They had a booth there. I’m so impressed with this platform. If you’re on a Mac, for me it’s one of the lowest barrier to entry tools that you can use. It’s US$39.95 and it gets you a tool that is like having a little television studio in your computer. It allows you to screen share, it allows you to create overlays with comments so you can promote a comment and put it up on your screen, you can drag videos in, you can drag images in, you can interview people now in split screen using their Skype Call Recorder. It’s a great tool and I’m really impressed with that.
I’m really impressed also by where they’re going as well with their product down the track. They shared a little about where they’re going, and I don’t think they would mind me saying in they’re going to be building a YouTube Live as well, and that to me really is going to make it even better. It’s brilliant and they’re developing it really fast. Ecamm Live is that tool. Again $39.95 and that’s a one-off fee. You don’t have to pay that on a monthly or a yearly kind of subscription. Once you got it, you got it. I just cannot believe it’s so cheap.
Keeping mind with the live video that Facebook Live’s perhaps aren’t getting as much cut-through as they were a year ago. When they first released Facebook Live they were prioritizing it in their feed a lot more. To get prioritized in the feed you still need to build in that conversational element that I was talking about before. It still is powerful, not quite as powerful as it once was because there’s more people doing it today.
The fourth trend I noticed this year is something that I guess building some ways upon the idea of video and that is episodic video. This is something that Mike Stelzner talked about in his opening keynote. Many of you will know Mike, he’s been on the podcast before, he is from Social Media Examiner and in the lead up to this year’s Social Media Marketing World conference, they created a series of videos called The Journey.
In many ways the idea is that they created these episodic videos. Once a week, they released the new episode in the series. I think they’re probably about 10 minutes each, and that was designed to be watched either each week or binged upon. This is kind of the idea that they’ve taken.
Really it was the telling of the story of the creation of their conference. They talked about the ups and downs of running a conference. There were some weeks when Mike was really vulnerable with people and talked about how things had stuffed up and how things weren’t going well with ticket sales. Then there were other weeks where they took you on to the highs of it, and “Oh this week we tried this and it brought in a lot more sales.”
A lot of people this year were at the conference who attended the conference because they’ve been watching this series and have been taken on this journey which is what it was called. I do recommend you check out The Journey and I’ll link to it in today’s show notes. I talked to a number of people who said they watched that journey series with their kids like a television show and they binged upon it. They watched three or four hours in a row of these episodes. It’s kind of pretty amazing to see the results of that case study.
They’re not the first people to use video in this way. Gary Vaynechuk has been doing this type of thing for a year or two, showing behind-the-scenes of his life and the talks that he does. But what Social Media Examiner did with The Journey was really almost create a television show that people are now binging upon. It’s great for story-telling, great for building credibility, great for helping people to know you and humanizing your brand. It is a higher investment though and they actually hired a videographer to do it. So it’s possibly a little bit out of range for people like myself. I’m not in a position to hire someone to follow me around. I don’t think I’ve got an interesting enough life to have someone follow me around but there are ways to create episodic content.
And that leads me to the fifth thing I want to talk about, and that is the rise in stories, story-style content. We saw probably two years, three years ago at Social Media Marketing World the rise of SnapChat. Everyone was on SnapChat. Everyone was talking about their Snaps. I never really got it myself. I only really begun to get these idea of story content once it came to Instagram. Last year’s conference, there was a major focus on Instagram Stories versus SnapChat and people saying, “Oh, Instagram stole the idea from SnapChat,” and possibly they did, but there was a debate whether SnapChat would survive this or not.
This year there was a real feel at the conference that SnapChat’s perhaps is on the way out. I think one of the Kardashians declared it dead and knocked its stock price right down but certainly we saw this year the rise in people talking about Instagram Stories, and to a lesser degree, Facebook Stories as well. I lost count of the amount of people who told me that they’re getting great results from Instagram Stories, particularly those who were using it to drive traffic to things that they were doing in their business.
I think once you have 10,000 followers on Instagram and if you have a business account, I think that’s the qualification you can use, the swipe up feature which allows you to put a link in so people could go and check out what you’re doing. It’s pretty much the only way to get people to visit your blog or to visit your sales page from Instagram except from using your profile link. A lot of people now are using stories to call people to action. We’re talking about how they were designing and crafting sequences of stories to take their audience on a journey. So it’s not just people saying, “This is what I’m doing,” or, “this is what I’m eating,” or, “this is what my cat did,” anymore. It’s actually people designing and crafting an experience for their followers, to not just tell the backstory of their life but to actually present information and take their readers on a journey in some way.
In some ways it’s what Mike was talking about with episodic content but it’s something we’ve all got in our phones that we can do in other easy way and people getting really, really creative with their stories. The other thing that people are telling me is that more and more people now are familiar with the stories. Probably a year ago people saw the stories little circles in Instagram account and didn’t know what they were, didn’t know how to use them but now it’s being adopted and I suspected there are some people who are using the stories more than they are using anything else on Instagram, so big area of growth.
Of course we’ve also seen Facebook now introducing stories as well and I’m told in the last few days by people that now Facebook pages can potentially do stories as well. Hopefully we’ll see that continue to mature as a platform too.
The sixth thing I want to talk about are bots and messenger marketing. This is something that came up many times at the conference this year. It was talked about from the keynote stage. There was a whole stream of content pretty much on bots. Now I’m not talking about Twitter bots, Russian Twitter bots. I’m talking about bots that are used in messaging apps, particularly in Facebook Messenger, I think WhatsApp perhaps as well. This is something that has really been on the rise since last year’s conference. It was talked about last year but this year a lot more people have taken it and have run with it.
This what I was talking about before. I go to this conference to hear about what’s coming, the new emerging trends. I don’t tend to jump on in the first year. I tend to wait and see what people have done with them and jump on about a year later. That puts me slightly behind the curve in some ways and perhaps it’s a disadvantage but one of the things I’ve learned is there’s always a new trend coming and not all of them take off, and not all of them are going to suit my business. So I tend to hang back for a year and then wait a see what people are doing and then implement after that.
This is one of the things I think now is maturing and there’s opportunities that are definitely there for bloggers. It almost flies a little in the face though of one of the things I talked about earlier, and that is focusing upon being real and being human. Some people would argue–and I’ve heard people argue–that bots are the opposite of that. How can a bot be real? How can a bot be human? How can a bot be truly engaging?
There’s a few things I’d say about that. One, the bots are actually getting pretty good at being engaging and some of the technologies are amazing but I guess the main thing I would say is that I see the place of a bot as being getting people to the engagement. If you use it in small ways to drive people to real engagement, that’s a very powerful thing.
For example, a really small example, last week in my Facebook Live I set up a bot using a tool called ManyChat. If anyone left a comment and the comment I think the word was “alert me,” if anyone said “alert me” in the comments of that Facebook Live, this bot sent them a message inviting them to be alerted of anytime I would go live on Facebook. So anytime I go live on Facebook anyone who used the word “alert me” back then is going to get a message in their Messenger saying “Darren’s about to go live.”
That is a bot driving people to real life engagement. I think that type of use of a bot is one way you can actually drive people to those engaging experiences, drive people to the things they actually want. I think the best way to use a bot is to solve a problem. One of the problems I was solving there is that people tell me every time I go live, “Ah I didn’t realize you were going live today,” and, “Facebook didn’t really alert me like I ask them to,” or, “they alerted me too late.” Actually solving a problem with the bot in some way.
I can see bloggers using bots in a variety of ways. You could set up a bot to notify people when you publish content, when a live event is happening, when a podcast is released. You could set up a bot to introduce new readers to your old content. You could setup a bot to help people keep on track when running a challenge.
The key I think is to get people on the same page as you, as to what to expect from the bot. So when you invite people to subscribe to your bot, don’t just say, “Hey subscribe to my bot,” and then not telling them what’s going to happen. Tell them, “If you subscribe to this bot I’ll let you know when I go live,” or “you will be alerted when I have a new podcast,” or “you will get a sequence of messages from me that will walk you through this type of content.” You want to be really clear.
In many ways the bot I see it is very similar to an email list, really. You can use an email list to send broadcast, you can use an email list to send people through a sequence of emails to an autoresponder, and you can do the same type of things with bots. You probably don’t just want one bot that is going to do it all because that is just going to annoy everyone if you start doing all those things to everyone who subscribes. You probably want to set up bots that tag people with their particular interest, so you only interrupt them in Messenger when you’ve got something relevant to say to them and to their needs.
If you want to check out who’s doing some good stuff with bots as far as I can see is Gary Vaynechuk–I’ve mentioned him twice today. Gary has been pushing really hard on this at the moment. He set up a Facebook Messenger community which he calls First In Line. If you do a Google for that, you’ll find it. It’s really to help his followers, and his followers, his fans are crazy, they’re rabid, they’re enthusiastic but it’s to give them the information that they want.
I can link to the sign-up page for this in the show notes today but you’ll see he asks for a lot of information. He asks for their name, he ask for their phone number, he asks for the things they’re interested in and what I suspect he’s doing there is tagging people who follow his bot with what they want to hear. So he says are you interested in my books? Are you interested in my speaking? My events? Are you interested in my sneakers? Because he’s got a sneaker line now. I suspect what I’m going to get from following him from that bot is information that I’ve tagged as I’m interested in. I think to me that’s a really smart way of setting up a bot.
This is the space that I think will develop a lot in the next year or so. The tools that I’ve used so far, ManyChat that’s the main one. A number of my friends are using what’s called ChatFuel. I can link to those in the show notes today.
The seventh thing that I want to talk about is kind surprising to me and I didn’t go expecting to hear much about this or to see that this is a theme, but I was really pleased to hear it and you’ll know why when I tell it to you. The seventh theme is that blogging is back. I don’t think that it really went away but this year I saw a renewed interest in blogging and I think one of the reasons for this is Facebook Armageddon.
People are realizing finally the power of having your own blog. Having something set up on your own domain, on your own servers, where you control the rules, where you can do what you want, where you are not filtered by algorithms. I am so glad that people are finally getting this message. I have more people coming to my session this year than in previous years. I had so many people come up to me and say, “I’m getting back into blogging,” “I’m bringing my old blog back to life,” or “I’m starting a new blog.”
People want to control their destiny. They’re feeling scattered across the internet. They are on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and podcast, and they’re all in these different places. They want a home base for all their stuff. They want to build their own asset and people are realizing that a blog is a great thing to have. People are realizing that with the rise of video content, that written content isn’t going away as well. We’re actually not just seeing the rise of blogging and vlogging or podcast blogs but we’re also seeing the return I think to written content as well, which I’m so excited about because it’s my first love as well.
There are the seven big trends I noticed this year. Number one was Facebook Armageddon. Number two was the return and the rise of being real, transparent, vulnerable, and human. Number three was the rise of live video and the continuing rise and the maturing of that platform. Number four is episodic video which is something that’s perhaps a little bit more high-end but is a powerful thing. Bouncing off the back of that, the rise of stories, styled content in Instagram and Facebook. Number six is bots and messenger marketing, and using those to support your business. And then number seven was that blogging is back.
Now, as I said at the top of this week’s show, next week’s episode, episode 241, I want to answer some questions that I know many of you probably are asking right now, and I heard many people asking at the end of Social Media Marketing World, and that is, “What should I focus my time on?” You just heard seven things that you could be focusing your time on. Should you be creating episodic content? Should you be doing Insta-stories or blogging or podcasting or vlogging or—
And there’s all the other social networks I haven’t mentioned. There are sessions on Pinterest, there are sessions on YouTube, there are sessions on a variety of different platforms. What you should be focusing upon? That’s what I want to talk about in next week’s episode. I want to give you some thoughts on how I make that kind of decision for my business and how I recommend to other people to do that as well.
So please make sure you’re subscribed. If you are listening to the podcast for the first time, there’s 239 other episodes you can dig back and listen to. Also if you would please take a moment or two just to rate and review this podcast in iTunes or whatever app you use to subscribe as well. You can also leave a comment on the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/240 where we have a full transcript of the show today and I link to all the things that I’ve mentioned as well.
Lastly, if you got a moment and you know someone who might be helped by this podcast episode or the whole podcast, please consider sharing it as well. I’ve just given you 10 calls to action which breaks every rule that I’ve got but if you have a moment or two to take any of those actions, I would greatly appreciate it. I really mainly look forward to chatting with you next week in episode 241. Thanks for listening. Chat with you then.
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