Episode 58 | Posted on

Telling Stories Through Design to Connect With Your Audience with Brent Csutoras

Brent provides information through speaking at conferences (including SMX and Pubcon), giving interviews (such as for Entrepeneur.com), and writing articles. In this episode, we’re lucky enough to have him sharing his wisdom with Marketing Speak listeners! You’ll learn all about using images in marketing, and gain some great insight into various social media strategies and platforms.

In this Episode

  • [02:23] – What does it take to become an influencer on social media? Brent says that it’s very important to understand the fine line between being a marketer and being a social media user. He explains how to do this.
  • [04:55] – Brent talks about his history in social media, and explains that it was easier when he began. Having other networks set up before Facebook came out allowed him to get started quickly on Facebook.
  • [07:17] – Early on, Brent learned to pay attention to the landscape of social media. He explains this using the example of Digg.
  • [10:26] – Brent isn’t personally a huge fan of Snapchat, and says that he finds Instagram to be more effective in just about every way except the filters. He and Stephan then discuss Snapchat and the younger generation’s trend toward using pictures.
  • [13:30] – What do marketers need to know about picture-oriented sites, such as Imgur, Giphy, and Meme Generator? Brent explains the importance of the fact that these sites rely on other social channels for their popularity (for example, traditionally Reddit users have used Imgur, but no longer need to due to changes on Reddit).
  • [17:16] – Brent discusses infographics on Imgur. The short answer is that this is the wrong audience for infographics.
  • [19:46] – Brent walks us through the process of creating an effective infographic. We learn about Pixel Road Design’s strategies and what Brent thinks one needs to think about when creating infographics, as well as the importance of communication and collaboration.
  • [25:54] – Pixel Road Design’s Sportfishing infographic is one of Brent’s favorites. He’s also proud of the infographic What Are the Top SEO Marketers Working On?
  • [27:39] – In the sportfishing infographic, for example, what are the intentions and reality of the impact? In Brent’s answer, he clarifies that Pixel Road Designs is a design firm, not a marketing firm.
  • [31:12] – In response to Stephan’s question about the keys to making something highly sharable, Brent lists a wide range of ideas and strategies.
  • [33:54] – Brent talks about how he finds and reaches out to influencers. He then talks about how he decides whether someone is a good influencer to pursue.
  • [37:40] – Brent shares that he isn’t into retargeting, and Pixel Road Design has only done it for one client. He describes that interaction in more depth and detail.
  • [40:20] – Interactivity in infographics is a great concept, Brent says, but it costs a lot more.
  • [46:28] – Design is only one part of creating a great infographic, and most of us aren’t capable of writing or creating a visual storytelling script, Brent says. This is why he isn’t a big fan of tools like Piktochart. He compares it to using Google Translate to compose articles in another language.
  • [48:33] – Brent gives his advice for images with quotes, particularly inspirational or motivational quotes. Finding the right quote — and avoiding ones that have been used too many times before — is important.
  • [52:43] – We hear Brent’s thoughts on where to post these pictures (Instagram) and how to make them stand out (hashtags). Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all work as well. He and Stephan then talk about Pexels, which Stephan uses for free stock photos.
  • [54:34] – Using memes (rather than images) is much harder, Brent explains. You need to be really knowledgeable about them, and you need to be quick. If you can do that, and be creative, they can be very effective.
  • [55:44] – Reddit used to hate marketers, but it doesn’t any longer — at least, no more than the rest of us do. Brent goes into more detail about this and explains how Reddit works.
  • [59:30] – Should you make your page social media ready before you post on Reddit?
  • [62:05] – Brent talks about StumbleUpon. He says using the paid version of StumbleUpon or using it for adult content can still be effective, but otherwise it’s not usually an effective choice.


Hello and welcome to Marketing Speak. I’m your host Stephan Spencer and today we have Brent Csutoras with us. Brent is an awesome expert at social media and viral marketing. He’s a social media strategist and entrepreneur and a futurist. He’s the founder and CEO of Pixel Road Design. He’s also a managing partner at Search Engine Journal which is an awesome magazine and website for the SEO and search engine marketing spaces. Brent speaks regularly at great conferences in our industry such as PubCon and SMX, he speaks internationally as well in places like Germany. He’s also been quoted in the E-Commerce Times, Forbes, WIRED, Health Magazine, Digiday and he was recognized as Top 25 Most Influential Online Marketer, he’s been awarded a semi-award for one of his articles and he’s just an all-around guru. Welcome Brent, it’s great to have you on the show.

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I feel a little embarrassed by that intro, quite a bit.

It’s impressive but you stay underground. It doesn’t work so well when you speak at so many conferences. Staying underground and being out there quoted in the media and speaking all over the place, those are kind of two opposite directions.

I guess I just always feel like it’s more hard work than anything, right? I feel always a little shy about all the stuff, in general, I have always felt like it’s more just hard work than anything else and anybody works hard in this space and basically wins.

There is a lot of hard work that happens behind the scenes to make an influencer an influencer. You are a major influencer on social media and Reddit and all sorts of social media sites. Let’s start there. Let’s talk about what does it take to become a social media influencer or power user on a site like Reddit or Facebook or Twitter.

That’s a good question. I think that there’s accidental ways to be popular. Obviously, you can utilize the sites naturally and end up having a large following, there are a handful of people. But if you’re really making an approach where you don’t have that kind of natural success or that luck or you’re not a celebrity and you want to be influential, I think the biggest challenge and the biggest thing you have to accomplish is understanding that really fine line balance between being a marketer or being a business person or an entrepreneur, whatever your kind of space is that you’re trying to accomplish something on these social sites and being a social media user. I think that line is explored by taking the time to really understand the social site first. It’s important that where you spend time, you actually utilize the features and all of the features, not just one or two but going through the profile set ups, looking at the features, spending time on the dev sites for the blog. Each of them have their support forms and their dev blogs and spending time understanding where the company’s going, what is the features that are going to be incorporated in the future and which ones are popular now, how people are using a specific site. All of this plays into you being able to be an active user, an influential user, but yet it allows you to balance what you’re going to attempt to do as a marketer which is to try to utilize your channel to promote something, right? Whether it be a product, yourself, some kind of messaging that you want to get out there. It’s really understanding that balance is probably the single key, if you look at a lot of the people that have really been dominant in social media, they’ve been able to balance being a marketer and being an actual social media user.

Right. That balance means that you have to be virtuous and valuable in your contributions and not self-serving, not out there hard selling your stuff, not flogging your product, you’re adding value and that’s just the way you got to be in the social sphere in order to be successful. A lot of people don’t really understand what that takes in terms of the time investment. You got to build up a strong presence that is 99% value and 1% is like hey, here’s my stuff or here’s my thing.

I think it was a lot easier for myself and some of the other people have been doing this. I’ve been in social media like over a decade. Since like the very, very beginning. When I started in social media, there was no Facebook, there was no Twitter, none of these sites really were there. We only had Digg and Reddit, you know what I mean? Sure you had Delicious but it was all a similar theme at that time and it was very straightforward, it wasn’t a whole lot, it was more submitting content and kind of growing. I think it was a bit easier to build a following back then because you had that early kind of space. And then when Twitter came out, I mean for a long time, I was one of the top 20 Twitter accounts. There just wasn’t a lot of people on there, I had launched an account called Weird News which today is over 112,000 something followers right now. But when I first launched that account which isn’t that big now, but when I first launched it had like 15,000, 20,000 followers within a short period of time which put it in the top 20 accounts on Twitter. That allowed me to grow. And then when Facebook came out, my other networks allowed me to grow quicker on Facebook. It was easy to transcend for me but yeah, if you’re going into it now, it takes a lot of time. It’s really tough to do all the sites at once. I really would focus at one at a time. I would really go out and get your landscape but I wouldn’t try to be on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, all of these things at once and be a pro at all of them. I would pick one and I would spend some time really building your base up and getting yourself established to that point where maintaining the account’s growth, maintaining its level of authority becomes more second nature so it’s easier for you to do. And then I would filter in other sites and grow them until you get to a point where you can manage them all in a day’s time period, right?

I would spend some time really building your base up and getting yourself established to that point where maintaining the account’s growth, maintaining its level of authority becomes more second nature so it’s easier for you to do.

Let’s say you picked one of these sites and it was the wrong one, right? Vine for example, or back in the day Dig, or even further back Myspace and you invested all this time and you created something amazing and the site just failed.

This comes back to paying attention to the landscape. One of the lessons I learned very early on, I was really big on Dig. I was an alpha tester which meant I got to go into the offices and test the new features, give feedback. I was friendly with a lot of the people at the company. I was very, very involved and I actually when we calculated it, we had something like 15,000 front pages during the heyday of Dig. We really controlled Dig and we really had a lot of success, I had 5 of the 30 accounts and we were really successful but that was the time period when it was starting to shift. When they launched the version three, I might be off a little bit but I believe it was version three when they started doing the auto submission, when they started really doing the grass is green on the other side. Long story short, they killed itself by alienating its core user base. When it fell off version three, it hit us really hard. We had built up such a comfort zone of knowing that when got to the front page of Digg, we were going to automatically get on the front page of Reddit, we’re automatically got to get in on the front page of STOMPwe were going to be successful everywhere else because of the Dig effect. The fact that it will become visible so fast. So when the Digg effect went away, we weren’t prepared on any other of the social channels to dominate, really. We had about a three to six month time period where we had to really reinvent ourselves and a lot of these social channels to pick that up. Luckily, we were able to do that during the transition. We didn’t feel the full effect of it, but we knew personally that we had to do that. I will say that regardless of what channel you choose, if you were approaching it in a way that’s meaningful and really about networking and getting out and being visible and having value, you should have some sort of a cross over effect, you should be able to move on to something and have a base line connection. Even on Vine or any of these places, you should have a connectivity to a Twitter user, you should have an ability to transcend that you are following in one area to another area if you’re doing it effectively and you’re growing effectively. I think that the important thing to do is to really pay attention to where things are going and this should be the business side of you that looks at this and says what are the stock? What are the features? What are the growth rates? What’s the flaws in a social channel? Is Facebook going to be around in the next 3-5 years? Is Snapchat going to be around for a long period of time now that Instagram is kind of stealing their features? What’s going to happen with the features and the growth and where people are going is very important to know where to put your time and energy. You do need to look to the feature on these channels and really decide where is your audience going to be, and how are you going to maintain that exposure with them.

Yeah. Is Snapchat going to be around in the next 3-5 years? What’s your opinion?

I can’t get into Snapchat, but some people are really into it. They really get powerful into it. I personally, I find the same features in Instagram, and the more people that I talk to that weren’t an early adopter of Snapchat, they’re going more towards Instagram right now. The way that the stories are done is more effective I think than Snapchat. The one thing that Snapchat does have that everybody seems to love is the filters. Nobody else is doing a really good job with the random filters they put out. I’m seeing a huge usage of Snapchat just based on those filters. I do think that there’s a playfulness to Snapchat that is keeping it alive. I can’t really predict, me personally, I’m kind of torn because I feel that the filters and the way that people are using it is much more of a storytelling approach like an every minute storytelling. I feel like Instagram, people still pose for their pictures, it’s still something that’s more polished. You’re not just throwing stuff up on Instagram that’s like everyday stuff, you’re more specific about what you put up but the stories have the same Snapchat kind of fun. Snapchat has its place and it’s growing, and I’m not really sold on it but I could be wrong.

Alright, we’ll see. The jury is still out. I’d say me personally, I’m not really into Snapchat. I don’t want to build up this really powerful account with a strong reputation and fan base just to have all the content that I’ve created evaporate after whatever period of time, 24 hours or whatever it is. That doesn’t make sense to me, it doesn’t work for me.

Yeah. I would agree. It’s a completely different space, and it accomplishes a completely different thing. I will say that it’s important to know that regardless of how we feel about anything, it is important to know that photos have become the preferred story telling method for the younger generation. They are very much about facial expressions, quick tags, less words, more expression based storytelling and the numbers are clear on that. We are going to see a shift. Even if you’re not really jumping on board for any of these things for your personal businesses right now, I think it’s important to understand the shift in the way that we tell stories, because that is going to continue to have an impact and it’s a very good exercise for being prepared for the future.

Yup. That’s a good point. We’ve seen a lot of these mean type image sites take off like Imgur and Giphy and Meme Generator. Let’s talk about that for a moment. What do marketers need to know about those sorts of sites, some are hugely, hugely popular. Imgur by the way isimgur.com for you listeners who are not familiar with that. Let’s talk about that.

I think that it’s really tough because all of these sites are basing their success on other social sites. Giphy, all of them, they’re not successful in and amongst themselves. What they’re successful is that they created a product that everybody else is sharing. One lesson to learn from that, it’s still too early to find out how it’s going to have a major impact on Imgur, specifically. But Imgur was created by a Reddit user, right? There’s a whole story that I could digress into around it but fast forward to now, within the last six months or so, Reddit released a feature that allowed you to upload your images directly to Reddit. You’re no longer required to utilize Imgur in order to have a quick host that doesn’t have ads, that will stay up from the traffic. Imgur was created because the old image hosting sites were really bad. If you got an image on the front page of Reddit, it would crush the server for the image host. Whether it be your personal website, whether it be a legitimate image hosting company, they would crash. People got tired of looking at an image that was like hey, there’s nothing here. They see this post at the top of the page but there’s no image to view, it’s gone. And that wasn’t a very good experience for people that wanted to see the picture. And then if you did have good image hosting, they would cover them with ads and so they were very anti ad at that time and they’re like we don’t want to support anybody’s revenue, the marketing revenue. We want just a site that can host this. That was the birth of Imgur, it was the idea of creating a site where you can host an image that wouldn’t go down and didn’t support ads. Obviously that’s changed to have ads but when they made the shift now with Reddit to say we’re not going to accept Imgur anymore, or not that they’re not going to accept it but they’re going to create a feature that basically does the same purpose that Imgur serves, then overtime we may see an adoption of that feature that eliminates Imgur. And then the question comes if people aren’t using Imgur on Reddit which I would bet is almost all their traffic, like the majority of their traffic. If people aren’t utilizing Imgur on Reddit anymore, does Imgur fail? Does it go away? Does it die? I think Giphy and a lot of these are all built around relying on other social channels. What I will say is that Imgur, because of that amount of traffic that comes into the site from third party sites and the amount of people that are on that site, you can upload images to Imgur. Go register an account, upload an image and you will see a large number of views just by being in the recent section, just by being related, just by being there in general, you will see a lot of views. On Imgur, you have a great opportunity to put links in, you can actually put a link underneath the image of this is where it’s from. You can put text in there that has a marketing language in there. There is an opportunity on Imgur, Giphy and some of these other places to create a campaign internally where you say we’re going to take all the images that we’re using across social media and not only are we going to use them but we’re also going to put them into an account on these different image sites and let them get views and position them in a way to be another source of traffic, another source of branding exposure, maybe even conversions. I think there’s a risk thereof spending too much effort on it because you don’t know where they are going to go again but if you have images and you have stuff that you want to use on social anyway, might as well try uploading them to some of these different sites in a way that’s meaningful and test to see if you can get some extra traffic or exposure from.

Would you say that info graphics are good thing to post to Imgur?

I think anything works there but honestly infographics are not as appealing to the audience that utilizes Imgur. The thing about Imgur is that it’s really about collections of smaller images or quick images, it’s all about the quick humor, quick reaction, quick information. The thing about an infographic is that it ultimately requires you to digest it, like you have to read into it. A lot of them are designed not necessarily to be a visual story telling experience but they’re like here’s data, can you make it into a visual format and then stuck on a page which doesn’t cohesively work for reading it. It’s like you actually have to look at it and say okay, what am I looking at? You have to think about it. The audience that’s on a lot of these image sites is looking really quick. You can have success with infographics but I would focus more in the mini info graphics like breaking your infographic apart into smaller graphics, smaller square graphics, maybe one pagers and I would really make sure that they’re designed in a way to be very visually digestible. It has to tell you what it’s presenting you visually quickly and the data has just to be reinforce it, it can’t be like just visualized data only. That makes sense?

Yeah. Makes total sense. I’ve seen this a lot on Pinterest for example where they’ll take a header portion of the infographic and use that as a teaser and that’s what they’ll post to Pinterest although they’ll post the full infographic as well but they don’t expect the same kind of impact. Somebody sees like the best and worst sex positions, something intriguing, and it’s big enough that they can actually read that text of the heading. If it’s the full infographic, they can’t read any of it until they click on it and expand it.

That’s the same with Facebook as well. Facebook has a limitation as well, you have to get to the one page kind of view.

Yeah. For Pinterest, for Facebook, for Instagram, you want to have something. For Imgur, you want to have something small like a portion of your infographic and not the whole thing so that you get that visual interest and then you get the click.

Yup. Agreed.

Let’s talk more about infographics because you guys create a lot of info graphics over Pixel Road Designs and you do a great job with it. What’s the process of creating a great infographic, there’s research involved, there’s maybe some storyboarding. Walks us through the whole process.

Absolutely. Any kind of design for marketing for me is kind of like a huge pain point for me. We spend a lot scientific data, research. A lot goes into when you do a traditional marketing campaign when it comes to design. You think about your demographic, you think about your channel, you think about what time of the year it is, what kind of message you’re trying to.. there’s just a lot of work that goes into design for marketing in the traditional world. When we went online, it wasn’t really about performing, it was about the checklisting. It was like hey, info graphics will get links so let’s build info graphics and get links. It didn’t matter if it was good. Just build it. It became another thing. The same as content is where it’s like checklist mentality to creating content simply for the outcome, not for the experience, right? That bothered me because I was never really big on link building, I was more about viral. Getting people to share something. For me, if they weren’t going to share it, then it didn’t have the same value for me. When I started doing the design, I built the whole company not even with the idea of creating a company but with an idea of finding a handful designers who I felt like were influenceable, like they weren’t stuck on their way that they wouldn’t listen to me. I was able to teach them what I was looking for in marketing and they understood it and then we started creating graphics that worked. We started focusing on, I used to always tell them, you have to be able to take every graphical part of this infographic out and then you have to be able to still make sense of it, it has to tell a story, it has to work. Not just to be an info graphic but to actually influence somebody. To teach them something so that when they get to the bottom, they know what they’re walking away with. That’s what we really developed into our process was understanding that. We don’t just say like what’s the project? What is it that you’re trying to say? There’s question like what does your company do? What is it that your goals are? What are your visionary goals? Why did you create this product or your company to begin with? All of these things start playing into it. What’s your brand colors? What products are you looking at? What’s your other marketing efforts? All of these things come into conversations and then it’s really about good research, making sure that the data really supports the story. We segmented it all out where we have the creative process and then we have the research process. The research have to be reviewed not only by the creative team but also by the designers because the designers have to be involved to an extent where they can visualize what they are trying to do with the data. And if they can’t visualize it going into a certain area, then they can get additional data. It’s important for those things to come together before it even goes to a first look and then it’s important to visualize the data in a way. I don’t know if you’ve done infographic projects before but as a marketer, this is what I would get. I would get a word document. Hey, here’s a concept that I want to do for an infographic. Cool, I like that concept. Then I would get 27 pages in a word document of data, and I would think to myself there is no way I’m reading this. I’d look at it and be like, sure that looks like data and it’s about the topic we talked about. Thank you. Now, go to work. And then you get a little here’s some colors and some fonts in the small square and I’ll be like, yeah okay. I’d say okay in all the three of those. To a designer, I had approved the entire project. But as a marketer I’m like we haven’t even started yet. It’s like I’m weighing to see what you come to me with, right? It was a huge disconnect when people would come together for the first look where they would be like aaah I’m going to see this for the first time. Immensely, they have this idea of what they’re going to see already. And then it doesn’t match. And then they feel very kind of disheartened, they’re like oh man, this isn’t what I thought at all. We have a process with the way we do it in the questionnaires and the conversations to understand what that mental image is from you beforehand so that when we present something, it’s in line with what the mental image is. Once all that comes together, it makes the whole process smoother and it makes it easier, happier. But where you have to think about when it comes to info graphic projects as somebody who’s purchasing the infographic or creating one or maybe even designing it internally, is that you need to have the research that supports what the designer wants to do with it and you need to have the visual concept really understood by everybody involved. You need to have the cohesion if you are working with the design company. Be involved, don’t have a hidden boss or a hidden approver that’s going to come in last minute and then start changing everything around. Because there’s a lot of work that goes into the design of getting you that first look and most likely the designer feels like they’re already done. When you come back for your 12th revision round, it’s really going to hurt the entire experience. Take the time to understand and vocalize, get examples of designs that you like or don’t like. Get examples of info graphics that you felt flowed well. Think about the concepts and visualize it in your head and say like this is how I can visualize this working so that the designer has a sense of what you are thinking. And they might go into a different direction but at least they know where you’re going. And then make sure when they send something to you, you take the time to look through it even if you’re thinking I don’t feel like looking through this because ultimately it’s not really the designer himself who typically is responsible for a project being stressful, it’s typically the marketer side who just doesn’t want to put the energy. I’m as guilty as anybody for that. My own team hates working with me when it comes to my own personal projects because I’m still the same way around like yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m not looking at all, just give me a first look. It’s very habitual for us to want to do that and the best way to have success is just really buckle down and do your part.

Is there an infographic in your portfolio that you’re most proud of and you want to share with us?

It’s an older one but I love the Sport Fishing one we did. It was actually for a friend of mine, Todd Malicoat, he has a fishing company, he doesn’t have any more but he did back then. It’s one that I’ve always felt like was like really, really beautiful. It was just well done. It really had the visuals that I wanted. We did some stuff for the Olympics a while back, we weren’t able to put in on the site. I don’t believe we were able to, there’s a lot of things that we’re unfortunately not able to share. We’ve done a couple for Search Engines Journal. We did one that was like what are the top SEO marketers working on recently which I thought was beautiful and was really well done. I like all of our work because honestly, not to sound bad about that, I’m really particular, extremely particular. If I don’t really love it, I tend to send it back when I look at it, and I look at it before they go out. There’s not a lot unless we’re absolutely forced to create something by a client that goes against what we would want to do. I’m pretty happy with most of the stuff we do. And again, design is everybody’s interpretation so somebody could end up looking at it and be like I hate all of this. We have pretty good results with what we’re doing and I’m pretty happy with it.

Cool. We’ll include links to these info graphics in the show notes. Listeners, do check out marketingspeak.com and go to the show notes page for this episode and check out those really cool info graphics. What sort of results are you looking for when you create an info graphic? Let’s take the Sport Fishing one as an example. I know Todd, good guy, he’s a very smart SEO. I’m sure he had expectations for what this infographic would produce for him and his company. Walk us through what the intention is for the impact and what the reality is.

From the design side, I really created a design for this company. Pixel Road Designs was made to be a design firm, not a marketing firm. It’s a design firm that understands marketing but I was very specific because I don’t like creating a visual product for somebody that is judged based on how the outcome of their personal marketing efforts are, right? That was the same thing it was for me when we did social promotion a lot of times. There would be like traffic, exposure, branding, conversions and somebody would focus in on links. That was all they ever cared about. It would be like I got a million visits to your site, you got a ton of conversions, you got a ton of branding but you only got five links so you’re unhappy with the campaign. I feel like we try to avoid focusing on what the outcome is as far as when it comes to SEO outcomes because it’s really more about what you do with it, how it gets shared, it’s out of our specific control. But for Todd’s instance, he wanted links. Creating something around the business’s sport fishing, the way it was done and the way it was promoted was really to target other fishing sites. People in the fishing industry who would be talking about their own industry a lot of times, we have one of our clients is O.Berk, they’re a big plastics company, one of the biggest plastics company. We do a lot of info graphics for them that are learning info graphics and they actually print them up and they put them in Walmarts and in the stock rooms and stuff like that. They’re utilized for safety or for education or for checklist type stuff. In those cases, obviously, the benefit is the poster itself. With the Olympics, the idea was to introduce different elements of each sport and they printed them up and handed them out in Sochi when they did the Olympics over there. In that regard, there was that result. When you’re doing links, obviously we’re looking at the type of data and we’re looking at the type of design that would work for the industry you’re designing about. Because really, that’s what you want, right? If you’re creating something for sport fishing, you want other fisherman, you want other fishing sites, you want fishing advocates to be the ones that are going to love this graphic and this design and link to it, share it, and so forth. Links, brand exposure’s another big one. If you could create really good, high quality info graphics, people end up referencing them, they love to share them and a lot of times it can really help your brand having an association with them. We know a couple of people, we did one for J. Bear for his new book, Hug Your Haters when it came out, it was a really good infographic and he published it and did really well. It was about branding for him and his book and his company. Everybody has a different goal, we try to understand what that goal is, we try to incorporate our design to accomplish that goal but we try to avoid the conversation of being you’re not buying a link from us, you’re buying a graphic from us. If that graphic gets links from the marketing campaign, then that’s kind of separate, if that makes sense.

Let’s say that it doesn’t get so many links but it gets a lot of shares, so you get this amount of brand impressions. What are the keys to making it highly shareable? You could have a really great info graphic and it just falls flat. Just like you have a really great blog post, you post it, nobody reads it and it doesn’t go viral and nothing happens even though it was fantastic.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s just like any material you have, if you have a blog post, if you have a video, a graphic, whatever you have, the idea is to come up with a marketing plan around it. When you’re doing info graphics, that can go anything from like this. We’ll do an info graphic and then we might break it up into six pieces that are geared towards Facebook. You have part one, part two, part three so that you could do one per week and all of them would link back to the full infographic. Sometimes we’ll do a bunch of retargeting ads around the infographic, and because basically you can put the infographic and then you can do retargeting ads and you can send them to another version of the info graphic that has a pop up or you could do referral based pop up so that you know that they’re landing and you can have a lead gen on there. You can incorporate a contact form into it. There’s a lot of things you could do with retargeting to bring people back to a slightly varied experience on the same infographic. Looking at that and saying look, we’re going to create this info graphic then we’re going to write a blog post about it and we’re going to cut it up a little bit to fit around the topics, then we’re going to break it into multiple pieces and share it on social. We can do that especially if it’s not super timely, if it’s like not a Halloween one. You can break it up and you could come back every three months so you can schedule things out and re-promote it and bring it up again. Finding the outreach type stuff where you go out and find the influencers, you can get really granular. I want influencers in the space who have actually posted info graphics before. I’m going to reach out to them and I’m going to tell them about this infographic and hope they’re going to publish mine. I’m going to find people who have shared the same type of content, see if they’ll share it. I’m going to look for influencers that I can maybe do a sponsored posting or I can sponsor in some way. Really, you’re going to sit back and you’re going to start saying I have this material, I can do a lot with it. Especially if you’re working with the design itself, if you’re doing it internally or you’re working with a good design for me, you can say I want to use the same incorporation but I also want to make a Facebook header image that I’m going to use as a clickable image for the next month that’s going to showcase one specific stat and then say click here for more. When you click on it, it says this is a part of our info graphic, you can see the rest of it here. You make blog graphics out of it, you can make all kinds of different graphical elements from the same info graphic elements and utilize all of that in different promotion strategies to send people back to it, to get people to notice it, and to get people to share and participate with it more and more.

There’s a lot of things you could do with retargeting to bring people back to a slightly varied experience on the same infographic. Click To Tweet

And are you using some sort of outreach tool like Pitchbox or something to find these influencers and outreach to them or you’re just doing it by hand or what?

We’ve always kind of banned, and this is not I would say fits for everybody, I have developers and we’ve been developing for social media and tools and stuff like that. Nobody sees our stuff but certain people have seen it and it’s pretty wicked what we’re doing internally. We have access to all the APIs, we designed a lot of tools based on a lot of things we built over the last decade. For us, we just utilize our own tools internally. I think all those tools out there are great. BuzzsumoOutbrain, there’s a lot of different probably 10, 30 other ones that people could mention. There’s a lot of tools out there for research, to find influencers, to help promote content, to schedule things, there’s a lot of really good tools out there. We just personally do it internally ourselves with our own tools and our own process but the outcome is essentially probably the same.

Got it. What do you use as criteria to determine if it’s a good influencer to outreach to, do you have a minimum cout score you go after or Mozz rank or dominatory or some other metric?

I don’t really focus on those type of metrics, it’s more time consuming but here’s why. You can have somebody that looks amazing from scores but they may never re-share anything from anyone, they may never retweet anything, they might not ever post third party content. When you think about people targeting, it’s always different. I found this person who has a high score in cout, right? What’s the next step? Typically, if you’re going to do it properly, you’re going to say I’m going to try to start interacting with this individual, to build a rapport with this individual, to essentially be able to open up a door to connect with him in a way where maybe it’s a mutual benefit or it’s a benefit to me where they might share something promoted or do something that’s going to benefit me in some way, shape, or form. If this person’s never going to do, you’re not going to know that from a cout score. You can spend a lot of time and energy going down a path that ultimately has no return for you, whatsoever. For me, you could start anywhere you want but ultimately I want to see does this influencer do activities in their social space or on their blog, podcast or whatever. Are they mentioning other people’s content? Are they sharing other people’s content? When they do share something like a similar info graphic or another infographic, do their audiences participate with it? If you have 8 million followers on Facebook but when you post nobody comments or share or likes, it’s not really that effective for you, right? It’s got to be a combination of they have an audience, they are participating in doing more than just the vanity aspect of only saying what they want to say, they’re working with other people, they’re partnering, they’re sharing other people’s content and they have an audience that interacts with that content. Those are the three things that you really want to identify a true influencer and really find results from it. At the end of the day, this sounds kind of cold and kind of targeted, it should always be done with good intentions and good interactions and you should always help people when they help you but you’re ultimately simply interested in when that person shares or does something that the influence is actually there. If the influence is not actually there, then it doesn’t do anything for you.

Let’s go back for a second to the retargeting discussion that we had just a few minutes ago.


You have a retargeting campaign example that you could share with us perhaps?

Personally, I’m not really into the whole retargeting thing. I’m not into the paid side really much myself at all. With regards to doing anything with ads, retargeting or non-retargeting, I have working knowledge from just being in this industry a long time. Playing with things, messing around with things and so forth. But we only had one client about a year ago who did the retargeting to the infographic and the concept there was we had a sports related info graphic and it was a publication that wanted people to sign up to be able to get fantasy type sports information. The goal was to get people to sign up to get information about statistics that would help them with their fantasy sports teams and also for the betting back before it became a nightmare, I don’t know if you know the story about fantasy gambling and how it fell out, but nonetheless it fell out and it’s not as big of a space anymore. What we did is we created an infographic, we promoted it in a way that we get in front of influencers in sports, people that were pushing the stats or putting the numbers out there or leading the conversation out there. The idea was we had one infographic and then when people, we would use the retargeting ad which had specific ads that were created actually with the statistics, right? They were lists that were dated for playing teams that people could use or players that had done this and it was done in the same design as the infographic was done. The person was looking at data, there wasn’t anything to buy so the retargeting was just to further satisfy their information desire in a way that would drive them back. When they landed on the info graphic with the data again, it had a pop up and the info graphic itself had some elements in the HTML5, so it was interactive, had some elements in it that would allow you to click a button to sign up or to get more stats or to expand or to update the stats. In doing so, you would land there, poke around and then you would have a pop up that was like, look, clearly you’re interested in getting the stats on a real time basis. Join our newsletter and get up to date notifications on important scores daily or weekly or whatever. That was a campaign that did well but it was very thought out and it was very specific and it took a little bit of time and energy to put it together right.

Got it. These interactive info graphics like the one you just described done in HTML5, is that typical these days or is it still mostly info graphics or just one big image and there’s no interactivity?

I think interactivity is a great concept, the promise is it costs a lot more. What it comes down to is that companies that have budget for branding, the companies that are like I don’t really care how much this costs, I have a concept and I want that concept created. They tend to benefit quite well from HTML5 info graphics because they are very pretty, they’re very interactive, they’re very fun, the branding element. I don’t know if you remember the one that sticks out to me the most is the one that Google did a long time ago explaining why things work at Google. You could scroll, we could go through everything and all of the stuff would kind of pop up on the screen as you scrolled. It was this great interactive experience as an info graphic. There’s a lot of other examples out there that are really cool, they have some that are data, as you scroll out you get a sense for how big things are in comparison, you can click things and they bounce around on the page. They’re fun. They absolutely are going to have an impact in the engagement and the level of awe that people are going to have when they look at a graphic. They going to be like, wow, this is well done. You got to remember, we charge around $2500 to $3000, something in there, depending on a couple of factors for an infographic. Comparatively speaking, we’re specifically priced way below our competitors. The average price is $5000 to 6000, maybe even more for a really high end infographic. If you’re going to take that and then add HTML5, you’re typically doubling the price. For most people to go out and do and interactive infographic, they’re looking at a $10,000 budget for one graphic. When you start saying, what’s the difference, what’s the true difference in the end between a really well created infographic and an interactive infographic? If you were just looking for links, if you’re just looking for some brand exposure, if you’re just looking for some basic level things, it might not be enough to justify the budget to a critical thinking marketer. If you’re like we really want this to stand out, every little thing you do more helps. Basically right now, our regular info graphics, there’s a lot of tools to make your own infographic, there’s a lot of like go to Fiverr and pay a small amount of money and get an info graphic. The thing is that ultimately none of these things really get what you want, in most cases some people probably do but because the quality is not so much, it’s comparative to the base line, it’s not above and beyond. What we’re seeing in content creation in info graphics and anything, videos, is that right now the focus has to be on higher quality. There’s a limited amount of view out there for any type of material and you have to earn everyone’s respect to be that view. Even when you’re doing a news story, you want to add something extra, something that makes you a little better that the other 20 news stories and the same things goes for info graphics. If you have the budget, you have the vision and you want to go into those projects, they are better and they do have a better branding and a better opportunity but it’s not guaranteed and it’s a bit of a gamble when you could say I get could two infographics for the price of one interactive.

Yeah. That makes sense. There are tools to create your own, you could go to Fiverr, pay $5 or whatever.

They’re never five. That’s the thing. What happens is you go in there and it started out as a $5 projects but now, I did a project to have some stuff animated for my son wrote a book when he was five. I went to go animate a bunch of the pages. The person was like yeah $5 for an outline of one picture. If you want it colored in, it’s now $25 per. If you want it detailed, animated, then it’s going to be $35 per. By the time you got done, it was a $600, $700 project. It’s never $5. Really. But the thing again is it’s that there’s ton of info graphics out there. The thing that people have to remember is that as I mentioned before, a design is just a design if it doesn’t tell a story, if it doesn’t do something as far as visually guide you in the direction. I did a big study recently on the visual designs and recognition and stuff. We use a large part of our brain to recognize visuals but we don’t do it to retain information as much as we do to guide ourselves. A lot of our visual recognition is something flying at my head. Am I going to walk into this wall? You’re absorbing a ton of visual data but mostly it’s about guiding you to your next action, your next step. You have to incorporate some concept of understanding how the brain utilizes visuals when you design for influencing the brain. You want to understand design, you want to understand the story, you want the data to support the story not to be the entire graphic. You want it all to flow together. Typically when you’re just going out and grabbing somebody who has Photoshop skills, you’re going to have to supplement all of that, you’re going to have to supplement all the storytelling, you’re going to have to supplement the direction. A designer might not understand the psychology of how marketing works with design. If they don’t, they’re not going to know how to design it in a way that it actually tells a story, then you start getting into are you really creating a quality piece or are you just checking your check mark box? If all you need to do is check a check mark on a box so that you feel good about it, then by all means you can go spend way less money and accomplish a check mark box. But that can also be said about websites, you can go build a website for $10-20 or $30 and it won’t be SEO friendly and it won’t function, it won’t be responsive. You can do it, it’s just what are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish?

Right. I am guessing you are not that bullish using a do it yourself infographic creation tool like pick the chart.

I’m not a fan on any of it because I think that design is actually only one part of it and I think most of us are not capable of really writing or creating a visual story telling script. A lot of them require you to utilize. What are you getting out of most of those graphs, charts, right? Because you can’t custom illustrate something. You can’t say, “Hey you know what, I’m going to do this for the baseball world series and I’m going to incorporate the Cubs themes and I’m going to have the Cubs this and I’m going to have an illustration of three of the Cub players.” You can’t get that, because they can’t design for that. They’re designing circles and squares and little pie charts and thing that are not illustrated. They’re just charts, right? And if that’s what you’re looking for then they solve the problem great. But if you’re looking for something that’s a project, if you’re looking to tell a story, you’re looking to have something better than that, these tools cannot do it for you, they’re just limited. This would be the same as saying I can translate stuff with Google Translate but if I really want to make content in a foreign language, I need somebody who speaks that language and can translate it because there’s different phrases, there’s different cultural things that Google Translate and me using it are never going to be able to calculate. Can you use Google Translate to make a page on your site in Spanish? Sure. But is it really the big win that you want? No, you need to go find somebody who speaks Spanish and they need to write your content, they need to understand the industry, they need to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and the language in order to do it right. That’s the comparison of all things that we do is that you can get by doing it cheap or you can get by doing SEO cheap, you can get by doing a lot of things cheap but you pay in giving up the quality and the success by doing so.

Yup. Let’s move from info graphics to other types of images and then we’ll move on to some other social sites like Reddit.


What about images with quotes? What do you recommend here for best practices and where do you want to see these for maximum impact?

Honestly speaking, there are some pretty baseline understood things that are inspirational. A person standing on a valley with a sunrise, somebody standing on the beach, a beach picture itself. It’s not really super hard, I think you can probably visualize things that come off as being influential or inspirational or motivating or anything like that, somebody running, lifting weights. There’s a ton of free graphics out there. I mean my god, you can search. There’s one article, I never remembered the location but I always search free stock photos and there is an article by Inc. or Business or Forbes or something that’s like 24 free stock photos sites. There’s some really great sites in there where basically there are just people uploading pictures they took. Some of them are gorgeous, they could be a corn field where half the corn is picked and the other half is not. I used that at a one point for a website’s being built page, it was half done, one time. There’s a ton of graphics out there that you can utilize that kind of give you that sense of what it is your quote is trying to imply, right? Whether it be motivation or success or sadness or whatever it is, right? And then there’s great sites up there, Canva you can go to Canva and get a free account from Canva, you can basically upload that image utilize some basic fonts and some kind of layouts to the text. I typically will look at the image and say I want something where the text is on the bottom left half. There’s an example where the text looks good in the bottom left half and here’s what the quote is and here’s the image and you can save it for every different size because they have predetermined sizes for Facebook, for this or for that. You can go in and make those quotes quick. There is a great quote porn on Reddit where you can literally go in there and find some of the best quotes. It’s not hard to find quotes if you’re looking for them, I think quotes and visuals work really well. I do feel like taking a little bit of extra time to find some of the less known ones do even more, there are certain quotes that are just like I‘ve heard that like 3000 times. Finding something similar written in a slightly different way I think stands out. When I’m doing quote type work, I will take a little bit of extra effort and look around a little bit more. I’ll try to also do things like current quotes, quotes from 2016, quotes from 2015, and try to find some more current quotes that individuals are more prone to recognize. I also will also look at a target audience if I’m doing something to a specific sport. Let’s say I was doing something to a sports audience, football audience, being able to find somebody who’s in football who’s making that quote with the same general outcome of the quote is going to be more recognizable. There are things you can do to improve your success but ultimately people like quotes, they’re simple to read, they make them feel good at different times and they’re easy to make and easy to use. The things to work on make them better by spending a little bit more time finding the right quote. If you can make the images more focused on the person, so if it’s a person, if it’s football, the you have a football image that’s going to make it a little bit better. Finding the individual who’s more associated with the message and your audience as far as who’s giving the quote and avoid overdoing it. Any of these type of things should be understood that these things are effective but they stop being effective if you’re doing 12 quotes a day. They stop being effective if you’re doing one quote a day. You need to figure out a good balance and mix it into your overall content strategy but they are effective, easy to make and easy to make good. I don’t see any reason not to use them. Especially if you’re doing a content like in Search Engine Journal, we do a lot of them with the speakers or with the writer or with somebody that’s quoted in there because it’s another way of putting out some good information. Stats, if you want to do stats, it doesn’t always have to be quotes, the same content where you can put a stat, some kind of did you know fact. Those things all work the same. It’s just the format that really makes it work more than just the messaging.

Got it. Where do you recommend seating these? Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram?

I think Instagram works really well for this. With Instagram a side note, hashtags are super important on Instagram. It’s really based on how they have it set up. Like if you click on a hashtag, they have like a whole menu of the hashtags and related hashtag. It does a really good job of showing you related content. It’s one of the only clickable elements that are within their descriptions. It gets used more. Use hashtags but absolutely Instagram. I think Facebook really works well. Twitter works well because you can put the full image there as well. Google+ works fine there, Pinterest. Anything that’s going to be visually based which is pretty much all of them at this point, these work on.

Okay. You mentioned there are a lot of stock photo type sites where you can get it for free, not having to worry about royalties or payments or anything. One of the sites that I use a lot for that is pexels.com. That’s a great one. Check that one out.

I have it up and I will bookmark it. It looks interesting right from the start. And this is all stuff that’s stock photo. Yeah. There’s so much here for you that these little simple images are great. We do some of these at the design company. Most of the times when we do these, they’re very specific where we’re illustrating or we’re doing something that’s very custom. If you’re just doing simple quote stuff like this, you can absolutely accomplish this simply with these type of stock photos like Pexels and Canva in a little bit of time.

Yup. Have you seen a lot of marketing uses of memes?  Switching from the inspirational quote, inspirational image sort of scenes to like the grumpy cat and success kid and all that?

You can absolutely have success with them, it just takes more work. They’re probably one of the harder ones because memes have a very short life cycle before they become overused and become boring or become numb. You have to really be knowledgeable of the underbelly societies that create these memes. If you don’t know, memes really come from RedditYou need to see where these things are taking off very early and be able to grab them and utilize them. Memes work phenomenally, it’s just you really have to be tied in and you have to be quick and you have to be creative in how you use them. If you can accomplish those, then they are very effective. You see them all the time. When you see a funny meme, it’s hilarious and you want to share it. If you hit the nail in the head, it really has a high share ability and a high interaction opportunity.

Memes work phenomenally, it’s just you really have to be tied in and you have to be quick and you have to be creative in how you use them.

Let’s talk about Reddit again. Let’s talk about it from a marketing perspective. Is it true that Reddit really hates marketers or is it okay to market but in just a careful way?

Reddit used to hate marketers eight years ago. It’s gotten over that over the years. They still hate being marketed to and I think we all do. Think about the guy who comes in the conference and he doesn’t say hi but he just walks around handing out business cards. The oldest example is the perfume sprayer, right? People don’t mind being marketed to when you’ve taken the time to market to them in a way that respects them, and Reddit is the same way. If you’re scrolling through Reddit, and to be honest, it should be the same for every social channel. What happened again, the marketer mentality is that Facebook, Twitter, Reddit is a channel for me to get traffic. That’s what I view it as. I don’t need to be a part of your community, I don’t need to understand you, I don’t need to work with you. I just want to stick my link in there and I want you to send a bunch traffic. And if doesn’t work, then your site sucks. That’s the mentality that people judge a lot of social sites on. The difference is that when you do something on Facebook and people see something they don’t necessarily like, something that’s a little bit over the top, they’re kind of in a non-argumentative mode on Facebook. It doesn’t mean you can’t have exceptions to the rules, there are some of us who like to get pretty heated in debate but most people, when somebody’s saying crazy things or something they don’t agree with, that’s like Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob’s crazy and I just ignore him because I’m not in the mood to fight. I’m here to try to connect with my family and my friends. Same thing with Twitter, it’s like I’m in a Starbucks line, I really don’t have time to really sit here and debate this. There are exceptions to the rule but for the most part people are just going to let things roll. But on any social site, if you’re approaching them with the sense of I just want something out of you, then you’re going to have a hard time succeeding. But if you approach Reddit and the other sites in a fashion that’s like I’m going to respect you, I’m going to understand the language, I’m going to understand what the rules are, the community. A lot of people don’t understand it, Reddit is not one community. Reddit is like Blogger, it’s a bunch of communities, Reddit is a software that allows an individual to create a community and they own and operate that community completely on their own. They can set their own rules, they can set who they want to moderate, they can ban you for no reason, they can ban any content they want for any reason they want. And if you don’t like it, you just don’t participate in that community, and you move on to another one. It’s very important to understand these things. But if you come in and you say I’m going to understand where I want to market, I’m going to understand that community, I’m going to participate a little bit, I’m going to understand what they’re thinking, what’s the terminology and then I’m going to advertise to them and them only. Instead of what most people do, I’m going to create an advertising campaign and then I’m just going to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, everything else identical. I’m not going to change the content, I’m not curtail it to anybody, I’m just going to promote it because all I’m doing is thinking of you as a traffic source, a channel for visibility. But you have to look at Facebook and say this campaign is for Facebook, it’s for Twitter and the same thing for Reddit. If you’re creating campaign for Reddit and it’s geared for Reddit, then you absolutely have a great opportunity for having success and they will not view you as I hate you for marketing, they’ll embrace you and they’ll appreciate it, but most people don’t do that. Most of the experience that people have is I’ve never been on Reddit, I went there, I ran a post in a community and they down voted it and hated it so Reddit’s too hard and I quit.

Would you say that you still have to make your page or your website social media ready before you submit it to Reddit?

It depends on what your space is. They’re very used to seeing ads now, they’re very used to seeing commercial elements. You have to remember that there’s blinders to that, there’s expectations to how the web works and now, right? But if you can curtail a landing page, if you can make it more about the content, hide some of the promotional stuff, we used to do referral based stuff. It’s like hey, if the referral equalsreddit.com, don’t show this free trial sign up thing. We would make it simpler, we would say Reddit’s not going to be the converter, I still think Reddit can convert these days so I wouldn’t go that far. You can also say stuff like until this date which is seven days past the publish date, don’t show these factors. After the content has gone through its cycle, then you could show things. I don’t think you have to, in most cases where you have some questionable sites or spaces like Pharma or Insurance, some of these have just been so historically spammy that there’s kind of a built up kind of nervousness about that content. In some of those cases, I think you have to be a little more weary and you should make the extra effort. If you really understand the community and you understand the section you’re going to be on, you understand the rules and you’re gearing your content towards them, people are going to be pretty forgiving about everything else. You have to be true to those things, and you’ll know whether you’re true to it or not. In your gut, you know that you’re not really making an effort and therefore your expectation should be that you’re going to get shut down. The biggest thing I would tell anybody, I’ve been saying this for decades since I started speaking a long time ago, social media online is no different than social media offline. The same rules apply. If you’re having a hard time understanding how to function in social media, imagine you’re going to go to a meet up. If you’re going to go to a meet up and you don’t know anybody and you’re the new person there, you spend a lot more time listening than talking. You meet people, you figure out who’s the players, you go a couple of times, you spend some time there before you walk up on stage and you just grab the mic and start telling everybody how your product’s the best thing and they should buy it.

Yup, good advice.

And if you follow that, then you’re going to have success online.

We are out of time but one super quick answer to a simple question here. Are you still bullish on Stumbleupon, do you think that’s still an opportunity for marketers?

I think that if you use the paid Stumbleupon, you can still get yourself in front of certain people. If you’re involved in porn, anything adult, Stumble Upon has an extremely large underbelly of adult content and that can still work for adult content. But honestly, Stumbleupon made some really bad decisions over a year ago and they just essentially killed the site. Anything organic is pretty much dead.

Okay. But you can still do page stumbles, 5 cents per click or something like that.

I think it’s up to 10 cents now. I think they may still have a 5 cents but I’m pretty sure they moved it up to 10 cents but it’s somewhere in that lower register.

Great. Thank you Brent and thank you listeners. I hope you got some great tips and actions to take from this episode. We’ll turn the episode into a checklist as well as provide show notes. Do check out marketingspeak.com for the downloadable checklist and the show notes with links to all the different tools resources that were mentioned in this episode and we will catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak. This is your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.

Important Links:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Examine your social media usage. Are you focusing on marketing rather than being a user? If so, put
more time and energy into being a user instead of just a marketer.

☑ Focus on one social media channel at a time. Pick one and spend significant time getting yourself
established there before slowly branching out.

☑ Instead of posting a full infographic on Imgur, try this: post a heading with enough text to serve as a
teaser. Let your interested audience click through to read more.

☑ Work on promoting communication and collaboration among your team. Instead of having everyone do their part separately, try having everyone involved all along.

☑ Before starting an infographic, figure out exactly what your goal is. Links? Shares? Brand exposure?

☑ Instead of creating content based on an existing marketing plan, try turning the process around. Create great content, then come up with a marketing plan around it.

☑ Focus on high quality and going one step beyond your competitors. In a saturated market, this can be
what makes you stand out.

☑ Make an image with a quote to practice the process. You can use a free stock photo and a quote from

☑ Post the image with the quote that you’ve just created on Instagram. Remember to use hashtags;
they’re not just for Twitter.

☑ Find relevant Reddit communities and join them. Work to understand the community, and participate in it. Only then, advertise specifically to them.

About Brent Csutoras

Brent Csutoras is an expert in social media and viral marketing, but is perhaps best known for the compelling, informative, and entertaining infographics that he creates with his company, Pixel Road Designs. He’s also a managing partner at Search Engine Journal.

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