OK. 30,000 followers. Now what?

Back in college I had this hilarious geology professor who told me that “tsunami” was Japanese for “Where in the hell did all that water come from?”

That’s kind of how I feel about life on the web at the moment. I just hit 30,000 followers. That’s crazy.

Two years ago, I started a tradition of documenting my social media journey and at each major milestone, I write a post describing what it is like and how things are going.  I just hit 30,000 followers so it is time to reflect on the situation.

When I started writing this post, it started out describing the mechanics of connecting with so many followers but it morphed into a psychological self-examination.  I decided to cut out the parts about Twitter tips and expose the raw edge because there has been a significant personal development since my last “journey” blog post.

In a very small way, in a very small niche, I am achieving an element of celebrity.  I have a gag reflex even saying that, but I can’t be honest without describing it that way.  And I’m not handling this situaiton so well.

The tribe grows

First, the numbers.  Friends and followers has grown as I mentioned, but is also escalating. It took me 18 months to get 10,000 followers, a year for 20,000 and six months for 30,000.  This is being fueled by teaching, speaking, The Tao Twitter, and the blog.

My virtual assistant and I continue to prune the spammers. If I didn’t do that I would probably have 100,000 followers by now.  I love the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, all my Twitter followers are real people.  So the number is big, but the tribe is real, and amazing!

Whether it is because of the “social proof” of the numbers or (hopefully) the way I am connecting with people through my speaking and writing, people are starting to describe me as an “A-Lister.”  This makes me cringe.  I walked into a room last week and somebody said “here’s the superstar.”  Some people tell me they are “fans.”  Others have said they are afraid to talk to me.

This is a deeply uncomfortable situation.  I am just a guy writing a blog, a husband, a father, a friend, a son, a brother, a teacher, a writer, a business adviser.  That’s plenty for me. That’s a good place to be.

Celebrity as a mindset

This notion of “celebrity” exists in people’s minds and there is nothing I can do about that, but here is my wish:  I want you to know that I am no more worthy than you … or anybody, for that matter. Every person is amazing in their own way.

I know when people use these terms they are meant with affection and I want to handle it with grace but boy I am out of my element with this fan stuff. And it’s about to get much worse.

This situation is going to be profoundly more challenging when my new book comes out in a few months (will be announcing this in a few days when the title is finalized).  Here is my promise on the book — It is going to be unlike any other book you have ever read on business and marketing.  You are going to love it.  And I know that to do a good job for my publisher McGraw Hill, I’m going to have to be in the spotlight. In fact, I will need to seek it.

That “40,000 milestone report” I will be writing for you a few months from now is going to be interesting.  How do I promote myself and this book without coming across as a jerk?  I am seriously concerned about this. It goes against the grain.  I love to write, teach, and help businesses grow, but I don’t seek to be a “celebrity.”  Increasingly, that seems impossible to avoid.

The results of the experiment?

Now I know this seems improbable.  You may be thinking … “Geez you idiot, how can you expect to write a book and not have to deal with the spotlight?”

I have been simply following what seems like a natural path. Consulting and teaching led to the blog. The blog led to The Tao of Twitter, which took off like a rocket. That book led to more speaking and exposure. New ideas formed and I started writing the next book. And then, I looked up and people were calling me an “A-Lister.”  Ummm …. what???

People go into acting to become famous. People run for office to achieve power.  I did not start the blog to become a celebrity. It was an experiment.

And here is what the experiment proved.  With content and an engaged network, anybody can have influence now. Even me.

So it is what it is.  I know that as long as I am engaging and writing, people will have this expectation of me and that’s the way it will be from now on. So I need to view this as a privilege and deal with it gracefully.

This turned into a stream of consciousness blog post, eh? Maybe too weird? Oh well.  I decided to let it rip.  Yes, this is one of those times I wondered about pushing the “publish” button.  I exposed the edge and took a risk but I trust you guys.

Are celebrities made or born?  Do you have to have a certain kind of personality to thrive in the spotlight?

I know I can stay centered in my personal life, but is it possible to find joy outside the comfort zone?  How do I re-frame this situation so I can stop cringing every time somebody puts me in the spotlight?

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  • First: Congratulations for the 30k
    Second: As long as you keep on staying down to earth you will always be a trustable and likable “star”.

    You will never look like a jerk, don’t worry.
    So do not mind the status 🙂

    Kind regards from Germany


  • Dear Mark,
    What a great post to wake up to on a Monday morning! Introspection, retrospection and the maintenance of humility amid a growing popularity is what makes you unique among your peers (well, in addition to the great content and writing style). I hope you always remain open to others in the way that you have been with me and scores of other “newbies” looking for advice. 

    One of my most important mentors, a great man within the field of pediatric medicine, told me often that humility was THE most important trait for a successful physician. I do believe it. And I believe this advice translates into all other fields in which communication and connection are key. Yet it isn’t easy to maintain humility when success becomes a way of life. May you stay ever humble as you continue to be recognized for the greatness of your contributions to this world.

    I am humbled and delighted to be able to call you “friend” which is something you have made me feel even though we have not (yet) met in person. “Just be yourself” as you get out there to promote that new book.  I bet there will be many helping you to promote it once we read it; your publisher has nothing to worry about.

  • Interesting that you use the word celebrity Mark, to me a celebrity these days is someone who’s in the limelight, who’s famous for being famous, manufactured, rather than for having contributed or achieved much, so I don’t really think the word ‘fits’ you. 

  • Kenny Rose

    Yep you are a twitter celebrity. Get used to it brother. 🙂 And your blog is a celebrity farm with loads of little chicklets running around trying to Grow….. only they are feeding on real humility. knowledge, and honesty.

    McGraw Hill. Niceness I am in the queue 🙂 

  • I’ve got my lawn chair, blanket, and iPad, waiting in line to buy the upcoming book.  Is anyone going to come around with some hot chocolate?

  • The celebrity mindset is the core strand of our culture in today’s Western society – and is one that has no real positive benefits for the future….  Mark’s efforts/words above are what the world needs more of – and it sounds like he is determined to be of influence without the celebrity…..  Hopefully the rest of us can follow this lead.


  • Mark – there are thousands and thousands of football players but only a few go to the hall of fame.  You have a “hall of fame talent.”  The great thing about social media is that we get to enjoy and learn from your experiences.  So embrace that fact that you are super good at what you do and keep pumping out your stuff! 


  • As trite as it sounds, Mark, I think your best “insurance policy” will be to simply continue being who you are (and I can’t imagine you doing anything but that).  I like Cath Maguire’s comment; and to add to her point, maybe you’ll bring something positive and meaningful back to the definition of “celebrity,” at least in our arena.  It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to know you, and I look forward to working with you when opportunities arise!

  • Mark,

    I am honestly not surprised you have so many followers. I always liked and admired you, and when I first got on Twitter, you were one of the people I gravitated to. You pointed out why it is important to get rid of spammers, and now even with 635 followers, every few days I cull out the spammers as well. If I did not do that I would have over 1,000 followers without a doubt.

    I credit you with giving me the push I needed to start my blog. I have 135 posts or so since April and have 43 subscribers. Someone asked me yesterday how my blog got started and I told them it was because of people like you who inspired me to want to be great.

    I don’t want to sound mushy, but for a lack of a better word, you really are an inspiration to me and I watch how you behave and model my behavior at least in part on how you behave. Your humility and graciousness is what I look at and wonder why others can’t be that way.

    I also cannot wait for the book to come out Mark!

  • “Horses for courses”
    You are on course, we obviously like that course, and willingly show up to watch, learn and “grow” too!
    The word is you’re fine and I am content that will not change, just the circumstances of your course.
    best regards to you Mark.

  • Completely agree with you Nic, well put.

  • Here’s the enigma (probably should have written about this!) — You and many others have been long-time readers. You have spent some time and effort to get to know me and in a small way I am getting to know you.

    90% of the people who come in to this blog are not in that category however, and almost none of the people I speak to or teach to know me at all.  It is a constant flow of new faces.  A challenge connecting in that environment!

    Thanks for commenting my friend!

  • That is one of the most beautiful comments ever. Thank you!  Look forward to speaking to you soon!

  • Well stated, Nic!

  • I’m perfectly happy with my non-celebrity impact on the world!  I’ll have to take it as it comes. Thanks Nic!

  • I am certainly not famous for being famous : ) Thanks Cath!

  • Ha! You cracked me up with this one.  Thanks Kenny!

  • I’ll be there momentarily.  Marshmallows or no marshmallows?

  • Mark,
    Congratulations on your milestone(s).  It takes a lot of effort to get there, so enjoy the moment.


  • Pumping out the stuff is the most fun part of my job!  You know what really gives me a lift?  These little funny pictures I come with on the blog posts.  Keeps it fun!  Thanks Debbie. Sorry I missed you Harrisburg. Next time!

  • Thanks for that nice comment Pete. The feeling is mutual!

  • Awwwww … shucks.  Thanks Nancy.  What fun it has been getting to know you and watching your amazing progress. Probably took me a year to have 43 blog subscribers!

  • Good morning, Mark! 
    Thanks for sharing your inner dialog. It certainly has been a long, strange journey, eh? 😉 

    As someone who has occasionally called herself your “fan,” I wanted to offer you my best attempt a small measure of comfort: we love you (yes, we do), but it’s not just about you. You don’t have to carry the weight of your “celebrity” (cringe, shuffle, wry smile) so personally. 

    You are Mark W. Schaefer – guy, husband, father, friend, son, brother, teacher, writer, business advisor – but you are also @markwschaefer:disqus  of {grow}. In that role you have achieved celebrity because of what you stand for. You’re a good guy who’s winning. You’re a business person who is making “authentic” work. People identify with that, aspire to it. They “get” you and they feel you “get” them. It’s a win-win, really. 

    I’m just wrapping up assisting in a great online class about teaching (a subject that is outside my realm of expertise, but which holds great interest for me). Though part of my role in some situations is “teacher,” I’ve never been able to own that. Who am I to teach anyone anything? I’m just a single mom making a living in a trade she learned on-the-fly and in the trenches. Who the hell do I think I am? But, the truth is this: a) I do have something to teach, b) there are people who can learn from me, and c) I do not have to know everything or “be” the fountain of all insight – I can just be the “vessel” that is holding a little bit of the universal knowledge that’s out there. I think of myself more as a translator than a teacher – I’m just putting existing information into a language my audience can understand. 

    When I think of what I do in these terms, it takes the pressure off and helps me feel less weird when someone introduces me as a “rock star” or a (gag) “guru.” Maybe a similar mindset can help you put a little distance between yourself and the supah-stah Mark. 😉 

    Regardless – keep up the great work. It’s important. It’s helping a lot of people. And … we have so much fun sharing your journey with you! 


  • Thanks my friend. Look forward to speaking with you this week!

  • Having an active social media footprint doe take effort, but I find it fun.  Have met so many great people!

  • You have definitely been there from the start Jamie and yes, it has been a strange — and amazing — journey (cue Grateful dead song).

    I actually take a lot of comfort seeing folks like you, @stevedodd, @soulati and @jennwhinnem coming on to the blog because I know you are still seeing me as a guy just trying to figure it all out. You can cut through the “social proof” of 30,000 followers, blah, blah and see me through that lens of humility. Thanks for hanging in there with me all these years!!

  • Well, if it helps to ground you, I found the only list on the Internets where I rank ahead of you. The only one, but there it is. http://blog.ecairn.com/2011/10/28/25-of-top-social-media-influencers-speaking-at-bwela/

    Humbly yours,


  • Anonymous

    Congrats Mark. Not at all surprised that you reached this level of “celebrity” status. You share from your heart and it is blessing so many. Press on bro there are levels you have not even dreamed of in front of you. 

  • Mark, this week’s “WeeklyReminder: Live in the present moment” may help…
    ~ In the present moment, make friends with what you have, and who you are! ~

    Congratulations on your well-earned professional status.  Enjoy…

  • Definitely marshmallows please.

  • Love that.  Thanks!

  • It certainly has been a wild ride and it’s about to get a lot wilder!

  • Too funny.  That must be based on the Ad Age rank?  Why don;t you go after THAT ranking with a little statisitcal magic?  Totally crap.  There are a number of inactive blog ranked ahead of us. It’s a joke. But I’m humbled to be in the same category as you : )

  • Good call.

  • My pleasure Mark.  All the best, and only the best to you always!

  • Good day Mark,

    First, really looking forward to that book of yours, I’m sure I “will love it” and hope it will also be coming out in audio format as well (I find I absorb more via audio / taking notes)

    Now, to kinda answer your last question –  Do you have to have a certain kind of personality to thrive in the spotlight? I’m going to saying no & yes.

    No –  because many people who are in the spotlight don’t thrive on it. Someone we both know – Mitch Joel – is good in the spotlight, but actually doesn’t love it (we’ve talked about this even). He has accepted that for both his, and Twist Image’s success that being in the spotlight is an extremely good thing.

    Yes – In contrast, I look at others like Gary Vaynerchuk who seem to thrive in the spotlight, and because of this come off better. When you hear Gary speak, to what he writes, to what he blogs about there never is a “difference” he always seems to be full of energy, yet someone you easily talk with.

    Personally I feel the more comfortable you become with the spotlight, the more people will feel comfortable with you in the spotlight. So yes, get used to it…it’s going to be a fun ride.

  • Really good examples.  Maybe that is why I get along with Mitch so well. I think we are probably cut from the same cloth in that respect. Thanks for the observations, Josh.

  • Oh, god! It’s been years already?!? Holy crap! 

    Yep – we can say we knew you when … and we’ll be the first to call you out if you start going off the deep end … right before we pull you back from the edge. 

    Blog on, baby. Blog on. 

  • I think the Ad Age ranking would defeat my statistical magic. No, that one is faith-based, I’m afraid.

  • That ranking is the poster child for social proof on the web.

  • Ha.  Overlooking the chasm of celebrity!  “Help Jamie, Help!”  Quite an image. LOL.

  • The “A-list” thing is cool. And accurate! But on to important matters: Are there groupies? 😉

  • So to speak. : )

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations, Mark! Well deserved. May your influence continue to grow and may your humility become contagious throughout the entire twitterverse.

  • Congratulations on the milestone Mark!  You definitely deserve all the success you have had.  it is always refreshing to someone as down to earth and humble as you are.  I am really looking forward to the new book!  Thanks for all the great content!

  • Anonymous

    A celebrity? No sorry, not for me. And trust me it’s positive as some Twitter celebrities are really annoying me.
    So if not a star what are you? A REFERENCE! I know I can find a lot of useful posts/comments/insight in your posts (whether on Grow or on Twitter), that you like to poke where it hurts and always come round with some interesting conclusion (even if I do not always agree with you but I always try to comment whenever possible, time-wise).
    And above all you interact with other people on Twitter or here, on your blog. This is not a one way discussion, or you talking to other celebrities.

    So thanks and “Felicitations” (congrats) !

  • A book eh???!!! Ohhhhhh can’t wait for the title to be revealed!!!!!! I’M YOUR BIGGEST FAN Mark! 🙂

  • A book??!! Ohhhhhh can’t wait for the title to be revealed!!! I’M YOUR BIGGEST FAN MARK!!!

    (He knows I’m kidding) 🙂

  • Thanks so much Philip!  Nice to hear from you! 

  • Thank Adam. I am very excited about the book. Will be unlike anything else in the market! 

  • Just write. Write what you feel and what you know. Share your thoughts and let go of the concerns about celebrity. There isn’t much that you can do about that other than to intentionally act like an ass so let go.

    Have fun with it.

  • Great comment Cedric. I don’t think of myself as poking where it hurts but I suppose that is true. I just write about what interests me.  I never know if it will hurt or not until you guys show up!  Thanks.

  • Ha!  Oh well, here we go with that fan stuff again.  I do appreciate your kind sentiments.

  • Pingback: OK. 30,000 followers. Now what? | Social Presence | Scoop.it()

  • I interview authors who write biz books and would love to interview you, too. Please have your VA get in touch with me to schedule something post launch.

  • The writing I have no problem with.  That’s the easy part for me. Promoting the book will put me in a new place though. Thanks Jack! 

  • You are proof positive that social media can drive positive results in both business and life. Celebrity or not, those of us in the know and in the {grow} can say “we knew you when” (before you were on the “A-list) or “we knew you then” (if you ever fall off the list or decide to go off the grid).

    I believe we know you now. And that’s the secret to your success. Celebrity or not, be yourself and the rest of the world will discover what we already know. Good luck with the new book and the 30,000 {and soon-to-be growing} tribe you started. Count me in Chief.

  • It’s thrilling that we’ve had front row seats to watch your rise to stardom.
    I will never forget my first tweet to you a couple of years ago.  It wasn’t even TO you as much as it was ABOUT you. 
    I was frustrated with the Twitter experience and went in search of reasons to explore how it could be a useful tool.  I discovered one of your comments on someone else’s blog and went on to learn more about who you were.
    And after a day of some innocent cyberstalking, I cried out (in 144 characters or less) that I was ecstatic to find someone in the social media space who was so “genuine, authentic” and someone who is – as you may remember me saying – the “real deal”.  I take my premonitions seriously, you see 🙂 
    I feel so fortunate that our paths have crossed.  Even though I stepped out of my teeny tiny niche spotlight to tend to business and baby making for the last year and a half…I always think of you and what a difference you’ve made in my life – just by being you.  Genuine, Authentic, REAL DEAL you!
    Ya know?…
    Over the years, I’ve been quite blessed with opportunities to work with rock stars and famous actors.  During one commission, I had the chance to get to know one of these guys pretty well.  I’ll never forget what he told me once about fame, the spotlight, and celebrity…
    He told me that I would have enduring success if I always continued to respect the difference between being self-serving and being self-promotional.  He said it’s the hardest thing for some people to discern.  Pretty deep, huh?  But it’s true.
    And it’s something you know inherently.  That’s why you deserve every ounce of recognition coming your way and I look forward to the promotion of your new book.  CONGRATULATIONS Mark on all of your achievements! 

  • John Bottom

    I remember first getting into this whole social media whirl a few years ago and being astonished that some people were considered superstars. I suppose it makes sense to have prominent individuals in any field of endeavour, but I found it strange that such a strong celebrity cult should exist in what I saw as the world’s biggest ever meritocracy. Surely the point of social media – where anyone can publish and connect with anyone else – is that if you say smart things and if you’re good to people, you should be just as respected as the famous names?

    The great thing Mark is that you’ve proved the point, and I’m delighted to have watched the experiment throughout!

    Now bring on that book…

  • OK, you’re on!

  • Sure appreciate you Billy. Thanks! 

  • It is SO GREAT to see you back in the comment stream!  I’ve missed you. Thanks for your support and kindness Chandra.  See you at SXSW! : ) 

  • I suppose it is a meritocracy in some ways, although I think that social proof is still too powerful in this channel. Too many people faking their way through. Nevertheless, knowing people like you has made it all worth while!  Best part of the social web!  Thanks John.

  • You are worthy!  Hate the spotlight myself; love being the gal behind the person in the spotlight, though.  Happy to be standing with you in a very large crowd. 

    You just advised us at #SMatWork in Harrisburg to surround yourself with people that care about you on the web.  It seems to have happened effortlessly with you, but we know better.   You make every thought, every move purposefully with foresight.  Can’t escape the fact that you’re leadership material, my friend….  And those of us blessed with insight know how to follow a good leader.

  • You know, I’ve said for quite some time that there’s a difference between being famous and being notable and I’d rather be the latter.  You are famous when people who don’t really know what you do still know your name, you are notable when people who know what you do respect your knowledge and/or ability in that field. 

    If you ask the average guy if he knows who Stephen Hawking is, he may know the name even if he doesn’t know that he’s a physicist.  But Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt & Adam G. Riess were the 2011 Nobel Prize winners in Physics – so they’re obviously notable in their fields of expertise even if they aren’t ‘famous.’
    Sounds like you’re achieving notability Mark. Congrats.

  • Don’t worry Mark, fame hasn’t affected you yet.  You’re still the same goofy marketing nerd I met back when you only had 300 followers.  Kidding, kidding, you’re not that goofy.  🙂 

    Congrats, brotha!

  • Mark, when it comes to celebrity and being famous I don’t think they are one in the same. Celebrities are the ones on the red carpet night after night flaunting who they are wearing (which to me just sounds weird anyway) while being famous is a bit more about the influence behind it. 

    You are famous because you are an influencer. You are a role model in a world that is sort of lacking in that area. You are genuine and that is what people like about you. At first when you came to personally thank me for the tweets during your keynote at [email protected] in Harrisburg a few weeks ago I was taken aback. I’m not going to lie, its not every day that a thought leader in the field I love comes up to me, but when I thought about it afterwards, its no different than an @ mention just saying thanks. Except you were there and took the conversation offline. 

    Like it or not, your influence is going to keep you in the spot light. You’ve created a strong personal brand that others can only hope to reproduce. As long as you keep true to yourself and true to your fans/friends…You will continue to be a role model in the field.

  • I do take leadership seriously. I am kind of a leadership junkie and love to study it and analyze things that go right and things that go wrong in business. Overall, I think the social web is sorely lacking in leaders. Lots of copiers. My two cents. : ) 

  • You know i love the way you have framed this. I am much more comfortable with the idea of being notable. That actually helps.  Superb comment!

  • Geeez, it seems like yesterday. i probably had 30 followers! : ) 

  • What a great comment Matt.  Very inspirational, not just to me, but I’m sure to many others too. Can’t forget these small acts of kindness can we? Thanks! 

  • I think that is one of the things that people sometimes forget about the web-based platforms. Its not a replacement but a way to enhance relationships, conversations, and more. Nothing beats a handshake and a smile. And I don’t mean 🙂 although even that one usually makes me smile back.

  • I think that is one of the things that people sometimes forget about the web-based platforms. Its not a replacement but a way to enhance relationships, conversations, and more. Nothing beats a handshake and a smile. And I don’t mean 🙂 although even that one usually makes me smile back.

  • Mark, two of the reasons I still follow and RT you (and am starting to less in other quarters):

    – You still get a gag reflex when referencing your own celebrity
    – You promote yourself through your insightful blogs, follow-up comment replies, and social engagement…so that you are not coming across as a jerk.

    I’m one of 30,000, so 1,000 would take my place if I stopped following…but you have an engaged “1” from me because of your character.

  • great comment Brian. I’ve been thinking a lot about this very thing. I literally built the blog one reader at a time, just like we build a business. The day we think these are “avatars” instead of wonderful people is the day we begin to fail. Thanks for being a loyal reader! 

  • Thought I’d let the dust settle on this one before coming in to comment.  Mark, something amazing happened to me about 2 weeks ago.  I have been wrestling with “be of service, humbly” and “be of service, leader” for some months as I’m getting more public.   I’ve just come back from a live event.  The entire 3 days was dedicated to THE BIG WHY- the highest motivation behind what you do.  Which maybe is not so surprising if it was a Tony Robbins event, but it was Jeff Walker’s PLF Live event in Phoenix.  You think blogging is a mucky playground, well so is internet marketing! And while it was Jeff that created the space & theme for us to be together, what the group did together was remarkable. For me, I made peace with myself.  I can be of service humbly in a public, leadership role. I don’t know if you heard what happened at this event, but I’d say it is well worth comment.  Jeff has just posted his BIG WHY in his blog. http://jeffwalker.com/the-future-of-all-humanity/

    Blessings to you, regular guy.  You are serving & you are doing it well.  With love, Becky

    ps. Here’s the magazine issue that I just published today that has my own BIG WHY.  http://www.goodbyesandfly.com/notbugsmagazine/

  • Farside_pfeiffer

    Mark, I haven’t been following you for that long but stays on because you are genuine; always reflected in your posts who are written with passion and provokes/facilitates reflection; your blog is different and I love it!

    So you have to be in the spotlight, no problems as I image your family and close family will ensure it all remains real.

    I trust that you will remain genuine and look forward for more

  • First and foremost, you ARE a superstar! Not because of the amount of followers or tweets you’ve posted but because you take time off to engage – even with smaller peeps like me. Your thoughts are always genuine and it shows. That alone makes you awesome. Keep being a star!

  • Deana Fulton

    Love these comments. This post was seven months ago and they are still certainly valid. It is refreshing that the most mature marketers believe it is not an either or. The web and online marketing methods are the compliment to the real. The real hand shake and the real smile yielding real business and lasting relationships. Mark you are “real” and to that embrace the success. Thanks for your
    encouragement and friendship.

  • Kind of you to say Deana!

  • Great post Mark. I’ve heard you several times on podcasts and I came to finally check out your blog. Very nice work my man, it’s easy to see why you have so many people looking up to you. Keep going.



  • Thanks Jeff! Glad to connect.

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