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Reputation Management is NOT About Getting Good Reviews

There’s a misconception that has been permeating across many industries over the past couple of years. It’s the thought that “reputation management” is about getting positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+, and Merchant Circle. While that’s a portion of it in theory, the practice of it has turned into a huge monster that is ready to burst… possibly before the end of 2013.

 

It’s not the fault of the businesses nor is it really the fault of the reputation management firms. It comes down to the review sites themselves that have found themselves in the predicament of needing more reviews to gain relevance while also wanting those reviews to be legitimate. Some, such as Yelp and Google, are taking steps to eliminate the fake reviews, but even then there’s a challenge. It isn’t always easy to tell what’s real and what’s fake.

 

The bubble that’s going to burst surrounds two components of many reputation management services: automation and filtering. With automation, the same responses are made on dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of reviews. These are the businesses responding to people, but they’re canned and the review sites don’t like that. Google recently removed thousands of these automated replies spread across hundreds of Google+ pages.

 

The other aspect is much more nefarious. It is called filtering. In it, a company uses a 2-step process for soliciting reviews. In the first email, they ask the customer to take a quick survey about their experience. If the survey comes back positive, they then receive an email asking them to let the world know about their experience on the review sites, often with links to the appropriate ones.

 

If the first response comes back negative, the second email is much different. It is consoling. It is apologetic. It declares a need for something to be done about it and normally promises that the response is going straight to the top to be handled by the manager or the owner.

 

At no point in this second situation are the customers told to post a review. This friendly/unfriendly test before soliciting reviews is filtering. It’s frowned upon by most review sites and is a breach of terms of service in some. What’s worse is that if a major publication knew about it, they would certainly come down hard on the parent companies or the individual companies themselves for trying to manipulate their public reputation.

 

The right way to solicit reviews is through a transparent, single step process. Businesses that take pride in their service and boldly ask for reviews regardless of the perspective of the customer is the only way to get reviews the whitehat way.

 

That’s not where it ends, though. Getting more reviews is important, but handling the reviews – good and bad – in an appropriate manner is the real juice in reputation management. This isn’t just about getting a higher star-ranking. It’s about being gracious and humble to those that leave a good review and being helpful to those who leave a bad review.

 

The responses to bad reviews can be more powerful than a positive review. Nobody expects a business to be perfect. They make mistakes. When these mistakes are made, the willingness to listen to the challenges, try to offer solutions, and be sincerely sorry for the bad experience can go a long way towards helping a business improve their chances of getting more business.

 

In other words, negative reviews can be more helpful than positive ones in many circumstances.

 

The other component of reputation management that few companies explore is the search engine reputation component. Review sites are almost invisible if they’re not found on search. To see what people will be viewing, do four searches:

  • [Business Name]
  • [Business Name] [City]
  • [Business Name] Reviews
  • [Business Name] Complaints

The results on the first page of the search engine results pages will be what people are seeing. The things that appear on page two are threats or opportunities. The things that appear on page three or beyond are invisible.

The absolute most important part of reputation management is service itself. If you’re getting bad reviews, it’s not a random occurrence. It’s not “those damn internet folks” trying to ruin your business. It’s probably not your competitors or former employees being vindictive.

If you’re getting a lot of bad reviews, you might just want to improve the way you do business with your customers. As strange as it may sound, your reputation management issues may be justified. Fix those first. Everything else is just strategy and technique.

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LIVE Internet Sales 20 Group - Expert Panel - JD Rucker, Ralph Paglia, LA Williams & Frank Laporte - Automotive Sales from Dealer Synergy on Vimeo.

http://www.internetsales20group.com

LIVE Internet Sales 20 Group - Expert Panel - JD Rucker, Ralph Paglia, LA Williams & Frank Laporte - Automotive Sales...

This is an AWESOME LIVE "Expert Panel" at the Chicago, Internet Sales 20 Group

Sign up for the upcoming Dallas, Texas Internet Sales 20 Group March 19-21

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Using Your Website As Your Content Hub

There has been a continued push for corporate and even local business blogging since marketers started discovering the potential benefits several years ago. We're often told that a blog is where you put your content that doesn't necessarily sell your product, and that an offsite-blog is the way to go. In today's content marketing world, both ideas are wrong.


Content

The one constant in internet marketing (and everything else in life) is change. Ideas that worked yesterday may not work today, but may work again tomorrow. It's the nature of the beast. Content marketing is a portion of internet marketing that has evolved rapidly over the years. In recent months, it has become arguably the most important component of an internet marketing strategy because both search engine marketing and social media marketing have become extremely dependent on the quality and style of content.

 

Blogging is something that every business should be doing. Many are. The challenge is that the concepts of the past are starting to become less valid. For example, many (including us) have said that blogging off of your domain either on a standalone URL or a subdomain of the primary was the best way to go. It allowed for more powerful link-building from a search perspective as well as giving an additional destination that wasn't tied into the primary website. In short, you put your business material on your website and your human material on your blog.

 

There were those who believed that bulking up the primary website by putting the blog as a subfolder of the primary domain was the way to go. Today, this is correct, but not for the reasons that most once argued. Blogging is no longer an appropriate SEO play, at least not from a "bulk" perspective. The concept that you should blog to get more pages for Google and Bing to index is antiquated. Yes, you should be putting high-quality content on your website, but blog content in the traditional format doesn't quite qualify. Putting content on your website on or off the blog and using it as individual content "hubs" is the (current) right way to do it.

 

That can change. It almost certainly will. Thankfully, it's not one of those strategies that must be unwound later when things change.

 

Defining the Blog Versus Site Content Strategies

Pohanka Hyundai i.oniqWhether you put the content on your normal website template or add it to a folder such as "/blog" is determined by a few different factors. There are several different strategies to consider; here are a handful:

  • Blog-Only - With this strategy, every piece of content that you publish that isn't directly associated with selling, business information, or other services goes on the blog. This is ideal if you don't publish very often.
  • Blog "Fun Stuff" and Put Other Content on Your Website - If you're busting out a good flow of content on a regular basis, you may choose this strategy. In it, you'll post "fun" content such as employee-of-the-month or customer-highlights on your blog, but relevant content of general interest on your primary website. The example to the right uses this strategy. In it, a Hyundai dealership posts a promotional video and interesting images of a concept vehicle. This is relevant but not directly associated with selling anything in particular.
  • No Blog - The old ideas of what blogging should and shouldn't be have been blurred over the years. Just about any type of content can go on a blog, but that same content can find a place on the primary website as well. Rather than a chronological posting style, this technique employees categorization in the menu. If you post a customer testimonial, it goes in that category. If you then post a video and images of a concept car, that goes in another category. It doesn't matter when they were posted; both get equal treatment in the menu bar.

 

Once you've established a style, it's time to get the content out there.

 

Content Size is Important But Not a Guiding Factor

Size MattersThe biggest mistake that marketers make with blogging is to believe that there are size constraints. Some want all of their posts to be 300-words, 500-words, or larger. Others like to keep it quick and easy. In reality, content is content and as long as it brings value to the visitor, it's worthy regardless of size.

 

That does not mean that you should post only a paragraph or two with every blog post. Just because it's not a make-or-break deciding factor doesn't mean that you should opt for the shortcut. Let your content size be determined by the potential value it brings. If you have a killer video that tells the whole story, a paragraph will probably be enough to make it a valid piece of content. The video is the star of the page in that scenario, so highlight it.

 

On the other hand, a resource list of tools that people can use to buy a car should be more than just a list. Describe the pros and cons of each tool. Give a little history about them. Describe why you believe one tool is better than another tool for certain needs.

 

Above all, remember that high-quality, unique content is what you should be striving for in each piece that you create. Bring something to the table. It's better to spend the time to make a page that people will want to share rather than posting unworthy bulk content over and over again.

 

Say what you need to say to bring value. No more. No less.

The Importance of the Hub

Hub and SpokeThe hub and spoke model has been used in business, government, and life in general for centuries. You have a centralized focus point from which other components can branch out and draw their strength.

 

You website content should be your content marketing hub. Some have chosen to turn other tools into their hub such as Facebook, niche communities, or even Tumblr. These strategies can be effective if done right. Doing it right is the challenge; they are extremely difficult to pull off, particularly in a retail setting. Complex strategies surrounding these different styles may prove to be the best way to go in the future, but today the benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks.

 

Using your website (whether through a blog or your primary website itself) is by far the easiest way to get both a search and social benefit from the content you create. Depending on resources, time, and the type of business you're running, creating your content hub can be approached from different directions but the end result is the same:

  • Make your website sharable

Your goal is to put content on your website that others will be willing to share. The various types of social media sites out there give you a tremendous pool of potential share venues. Facebook and Twitter are the most common, but one mustn't forget Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and some of the other social sites out there.

 

A website that gets shared on social media gets benefits from three fronts. The first is obvious; any time your website is shared there's a chance that people will come and visit it. Depending on the power and reach of the profiles sharing it, you might get a nice spike in traffic. Even though it's the most obvious, it's also the least important. Visitors are nice, but those who come from social media shares are often the lowest value.

 

The second is becoming more important every day. Social signals are important to Google and Bing in their search rankings. They're becoming more important with every update. The more your website content is shared, the better the domain can rank.

  • Notice that I said, "the better the domain can rank."

 

It's not just the page itself that gets a benefit from your efforts. The domain gains credibility from the shares. If you're a car dealer, there's a good chance that people are not going to share an inventory details page of a vehicle they just found. They're not going to share your service appointment page. They're not going to share your oil change specials.

 

They will, however, share an interesting video and great images of a Hyundai concept car that they found on your website. By sharing this and similar pages, the search engines give it an authority bump.

 

The final front from which social media sharing can help is in sheer public perception. This is of light importance today but will grow in coming months as the social sites focus on domain shares. What's happening is this: widgets and apps are displaying "most shared" or "other pages from this domain" on the social sites themselves as well as offsite. The perception that content is sharable on a particular domain is going to become more valid in the near future. If your website has lots of good content that people have shared, they're more likely to explore your website. Again, this is minor today but is growing in importance.

 

Further Questions

QuestionsIn upcoming articles, we will cover:

  • How to make content that people will want to share
  • Finding content ideas by exploring
  • The proper content sharing structure to gain maximum exposure
  • How to build power accounts that can make "going viral" a possibility

 

In the meantime, keep reading everything you can about content marketing. It's not just the future. It's already here. Those who do content marketing properly are able to bypass traditional search engine optimization and social media marketing strategies because the content can be positioned to do all of the work for you.

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Content marketing is internet marketing. It has been for a while (which I'll discuss below) but in 2013 content management will emerge to become the "must have" component of automotive digital marketing strategy.

It was during a discussion on ADM where the venerable Ralph Paglia brought up a great point. In regards to an article about using your website as the content hub for both search and social, Paglia posted a comment pointing out that not all web platforms, particularly those in the automotive industry, give users the ability to post content as easily as they can on Wordpress, Tumblr, Ning, or any of the other platforms specifically designed as content management systems. Many automotive websites (and business websites in general) trap users with content restrictions. This has been an annoyance for years. Going into 2013, it will be a major drawback.

 

Content Has Been The Key Forever, But...

This isn't anything new. Content marketing has been a component of search engine optimization, social media marketing, affiliate marketing, and just about every strategy that relies on driving traffic from one source to another. The difference now is that it's going beyond the status of being a "component" and becoming the heart and soul of these various types of marketing techniques.

 

SEO for years has been a function of appropriate keyword-rich content, keyword-rich title tags, and powerful inbound links with keyword-rich title tags. There was a time when you could have next to zero content on your website and still rank well for challenging terms. Those days are behind us. With the Penguin update in April and the Panda update last year, Google forced search marketers to shoot for quality, to draw in the links based upon organic prominence. For this reason, content truly has become "king" even though it was really just a queen or a jack in the recent past.

 

Social media marketing can always relied on content as the driving force, but one could easily center the content on the social sites and still benefit from it. This strategy is still in play, particularly for big brands, but smaller or localized businesses (such as car dealers) should rework their social strategies to include the content that appears on their website.

 

The reality of the trends is this: content marketing was a part of larger marketing strategies before. Now, those other marketing strategies are easier to manage if you make the content aspect the central activity that bleeds over into search and social. It's a paradigm shift in many ways and is the reason why changes should be coming for many websites in the coming year. Some would argue that they shouldn't even wait for 2013, that now is the time to act. I tend to agree.

 

Post It or Move Along

There's an episode of Seinfeld where Cosmo Kramer starts receiving phone calls at his home from people wanting to get movie times. He tries to become Movie Phone. Unfortunately, he runs into some roadblocks.

 

Embedding is disabled, but watch it anyway.

 

This is sort of what's happening for many business website providers, particularly in automotive. "Why don't you just tell me what content you want on your website?"

 

They (dealer website providers) don't offer the tools that allow users to log in, post a piece of content, and make it live immediately. For some, you have to send them the HTML itself. Others tell you to email them the words and pictures and they'll post it for you. Some let you build a page, but won't allow it to go live until you call them.

 

Call them? Really?

To be able to perform the basic marketing techniques required for success in 2013, you must be able to post your content how you want it and when you want it without constraints. You must have the ability to put the right social media buttons on your content; that doesn't mean a blue "F" in a small box that links to your Facebook page. You need true share buttons. Social signals are becoming the most important tool in both search and social marketing. If your website platform breaks the codes, you need to make a change.

 

If you are unable to post content easily without putting a ticket into tech support, you will fall behind your competitors. If you cannot make your websites socially engaging, you will fall behind your competitors. People are really starting to "get it" when it comes to content marketing. Some of these people want to succeed over you. Will you let that happen?

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Are You Asking the Right Questions About Your Message?

I've learned that coincidences don't really happen. There's always a reason. As I worked on my story today regarding content, I stopped to check Facebook and found exactly what I needed, courtesy of Jeff Glackin.

What you say in all of the media types - television, radio, print, social media, search marketing, billboards, etc. - has an opportunity to reach people. Often I'm asked questions about spends and ROI.

  • Will $10,000 spent on social media give the same or better yield than $10,000 spent on television?

  • Should I sink everything into online marketing or keep my offline marketing going strong?

  • Should I minimize my internet spend to just a website and classified ads and move the rest of my budget offline again?

The answer to all of these questions is the same. It depends on your message. That's it. The real question isn't whether or not a social media spend is better than a radio spend. The real question surrounds the way that you're putting your message out there. The words are often much more important than the medium.

This topic deserves much more research and examples than I can put together today, but it's important to get in the right frame of mind before exploring this topic more fully. To do this, I'll rely on a pretty good video on the topic. It's not a superb video but it evokes emotion and gets the basic point across.

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Http://www.internetbattleplan.com 

I highly recommend that if you are able to make it to New Jersey that you make it to the Internet Battle Plan. This one is going to be AMAZING!!

I just concluded the Internet Sales 20 Group in Chicago and I had the honor of having JD Rucker and Paul Sansone Jr. As Speakers for my event and WOW!! They killed it! Everyone LOVED their presentations!! 

And Cory Mosley is one of the best trainers in the industry PERIOD. He is an amazing speaker, you will get so much from going to see him speak.

Jim Ziegler's Battle Plan is filled with top subject matter experts. If Jim has them on the Roster... They are good. 

I had the pleasure of co-hosting the original two Dealer Battle Plans and they were phenomenal back then, I assure you they have evolved into an even more amazing and powerful educational platform. 

Jim knows how to pick venues... Revel is the Newest and BEST Hotel in Atlantic City. I am not just saying that. I live in New Jersey and I just bought a building in NJ. I am in AC from time to time. Karen and I have stayed at Revel numerous times and LOVED IT. You will too! 

So, have fun, learn and be inspired at the upcoming Internet Battle Plan! 

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http://www.kpaonline.com http://www.automotiveinternetsales20group.com

I had the opportunity to go to Irvine California yesterday to the KPA / TK Carsites Headquarters. First of all the facility is loced in Beautiful California. It was great to meet the executive team of KPA / TK Carsites....

I spent a couple hours getting updated on what KPA is currently enveloped in and I got a glimpse of upcoming AWESOME products / services.

Here is a quick update from Ricard Valeta, the founder of TK Carsites-

Richard Valenta, VP of Internet Marketing Products of TK Carsites / KPA Interview

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LA Williams, national trainer for Dealer Synergy speaks on the upcoming Internet Sales 20 Group Workshop in Chicago, IL held  on October 23, 24, & 25, 2012. Professionals such as Ralph Paglia, Robert Wiesman, AJ Rucker and Peter Martin are just a FEW of the automotive industry's finest, which will be guest speakers at this event.

http://www.internetsales20group.com

http://www.dealersynergy.com/

 

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The Small Business Social Media Cheat Sheet

The Small Business Social Media Cheat Sheet


The Small Business Social Media Cheat Sheet
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The last 3 years, infographics have grown as one of the most effective marketing tools available. They're easily sharable on social media, can offer tremendous SEO benefits, and can help your dealership offer content that people enjoy seeing.

Still, it's also the most underutilized tool by the automotive industry. A lot of it is our fault; vendors in the automotive space have seen infographics as too challenging and too expensive to bring to market. We've had a handful of forward-thinking dealers take advantage of it, but there hasn't been nearly the adoption that has occurred in other industries.

Even at the OEM level, Ford is the only company that has dipped their toes into infographics and found success.

First, let's look at what they do for dealerships:

  • - They give content to visitors of both their websites and social media profiles an item will be shared. People share good content on Facebook and Twitter. They don't share new car specials pages. Some have asked what the benefit is. We've seen that when people share content on Facebook, a good percentage of it is localized. Friends, relatives, and coworkers that see a nice piece of content from a friend will visit the link and land on your site. If you're running remarketing campaigns or simply going for social media exposure, landing them on your site is an opportunity to generate a lead. Don't forget, every Facebook user has 8-9 Facebook friends who are in the market to buy a vehicle in the next 30 days.
  •  - Powerful inbound links are the most important aspect of search engine optimization. Having graphics that can be embedded on other sites is an opportunity to use this "link bait" to generate free links to your site.
  • - Infographics that portray useful information such as proper SYNCing on a Ford or localized information such as a crime-rate map of the area positions the dealership website as a resource on top of being a place to look at cars. Whenever you can become a resource for people, they are more likely to want to do business with you.

Once you know what they do for you, let's take a look at the most successful infographic that we built in 2011. This particular one was generated for a non-automotive client but it will be easy to see why it was so successful. Here are the stats:

  • - Posted on over 400 websites that linked back to the source, including high-value websites that included the New York Times, Mashable, TheNextWeb, and TheAtlantic.
  • - Shared on Facebook over 17,000 times with Mashable having the highest share-rate of nearly 10,000.
  • - Tweeted over 25,000 times with Mashable again leading the way with over 6,000 retweets.
  • - Estimated 2.3 million views of the infographic.
  • - Made the front page of Digg, Reddit, and went viral for 3 different sites on StumbleUpon.

Now, here's the infographic. If you have any questions about why it worked so well or how it translates in the automotive industry, please feel free to email me or ask in the comments.

 

 

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In their "Automotive Mobile Site Study", J.D. Power & Associates found that the use of smartphones for vehicle shoppers has increased exponentially. For example, they found that compared to 2010, those who used their smartphones to access automotive information increased by a staggering 40 percent.

Additionally, J.D. Power and Associates also found that 30% of male car shoppers use their smartphone when browsing for a new car. On the other hand, however, only 18% of women revert to their smartphone when looking to purchase their next car. Not surprisingly, the study also concluded that collectively shoppers 40 years of age and younger use their smartphone 26% of the time, while those 40 years of age and older only use their smartphones 21% of the time. It doesn't stop at smartphones, however.

Thanks to the emergence of tablet devices such as Apple's iPad and Blackberry's Playbook, vehicle shoppers aren't limited to just using their smartphones. During their study, J.D. Power discovered that many vehicle shoppers used a tablet device (iPad, Playbook) to access automotive websites. Men used a tablet device 22% of the time, while women only used a tablet device 16%.

Arianne Walker, director of Automotive research at J.D. Power & Associates had this to say following the study: "While the proportion of vehicle shoppers who use smartphones to visit the Internet during the shopping process is still relatively small, it is expected to continue to grow during the next several years, which will shape the way automotive marketers will need to design their mobile sites and apps."

If you're still not convinced that smartphones are changing the vehicle buying process, take this into consideration: the 40 percent increase in automotive website visitation on smartphones is greater than the use of gaming (27%) and social media (17%).

As more and more car dealerships move their attention towards smartphone shoppers and invest in their own mobile app, the number of smartphone vehicle shoppers is only going to increase.

What do you make of this study?

 

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How Google Social Search Has Changed the Way Dealers Do Social

http://www.internetsales20group.com

Every few months, we see a dip in sentiment regarding social media. It's been going on consistently since early 2009 and we know that it will continue. Dealers try social, see little reason to continue, and set things on autopilot or abandon it altogether. Then, something changes that makes social media more important and the searches for "Automotive Social Media" spike again.

Get ready to do the search. Social just got more important again. A LOT more important.

During the Digital Marketing Strategies Conference in Napa last earlier this month, I gave a keynote that highlighted Google's commitment to social media (as soon as Jared, Bart, and Arnold send me the video, I'll be happy to post it here... hint, hint). Google reaffirmed that commitment in a big way earlier today that will change the way savvy dealers do social media.

Google Social Search is a game changer - even SearchEngineLand, a blog that is often conservative about the impact of Google changes, agrees. It will insert links into the natural search stream based upon social connections that share and produce those links. While social search itself has been around for nearly 2 years, it has always been a side-note buried at the bottom and likely unnoticed by most. Now, it has the potential to change the search results important to us with a single Tweet, review, or blog post.

 

With access to Beta, I did 2 searches for "Washington DC Chevrolet." The first, I did while not logged into Google, personalized search off and cookies cleared:

Then, I did the exact same search while logged into Google:

As you can see, a post by good friend Paul Rushing popped up at the top.

What does this mean for search and social? It means that social sentiment, which many dealers are paying attention to more regularly, just got that much more important. It means that dealers who are unprepared have the potential to see their search traffic drop, particularly if a competing dealer in the market is able to take advantage of this.

It means that YOU can beat them all to the punch and start getting prepared today before it rolls out fully.

I am in the middle of exhaustive research on the subject right now, but here are some key points to think about while you wait for our next version of the Automotive Social Media strategy guide:

  • - Tweets Matter. A Lot. - Imagine a potential customer doing a search for one of your makes in your metro area (the most common new car search; "Denver Ford," for example). They under one of the results close to the top your dealership's listing. It's not at the top, but something catches their eye... Co-worker Debbie tweeted your dealership URL. They click through and see that 14 months ago, Debbie bought a car there and tweeted about how good her experience was. Bingo.
  • - If You Thought Reviews Were Important Before... - As Google always does when they roll out new search features, we can expect expansion. While Facebook is almost completely out of the question for integration, reviews are definitely part of the equation. Same scenario as above, except replace "Tweet" with "RatePoint." Bingo again.
  • - That Pesky Blogger... - Remember the guy who thought he'd wreck your business by posting on his blog about how you low-balled him on his trade? You were smart and covered your Google page one results to keep his post off, but now it's showing up again for hundreds, even thousands of people who are either connected to him or connected to someone who shared his post on social media.
  • - Your Connections. - Now more than ever, having a strong and well-maintained Twitter account is important. Do you still have an RSS feed handling your Tweets, driving potential customers to unfollow you, or are you growing your account and being interesting? If the subtle, intrinsic benefits of Twitter didn't get your attention before, how about moving your website up to the top of hundreds of searches? Still want to automate?

I'm not going to sit here and say "I told you so." Not here. Not on Driving Sales. The dealers here represent the top echelon of automotive social media knowledge so you're probably taking advantage of social media in one way or another. Don't let up. Stay aggressive. Keep up with the changes.

And don't forget to bug Jared about getting me that video. It has some information that may further change the way you do your social media.

 

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