• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on January 22, 2015

    The Rules of Engagement on Facebook

    If you want to make your content sharable and searchable on Facebook, you need to have a thorough understanding of Facebook principles and the general rules that apply to content and behavior.
  • When I started my own business in 2008, I didn’t have any roadmap so I looked around to see who was doing it well and what I could learn from them. My role model was Chris Brogan, who had the number one marketing blog in the world. So my mantra became “Be like Chris.” That turned out to be a mistake, and here's why.

    I have been mentoring a bright young guy trying to start a marketing business. I just received this note from him:

    I’m still full of questions about this whole marketing business thing. I think I am setting the bar too high for myself and failing.  I’m comparing myself to friends like you and Jay Baer and not seeing the same results.  I am trying to lower the goal, but when I am surrounded by what you guys do I don’t really know what that goal is.  

    Here is my response (I told him I was going to make a blog post out of this!) …

    When I started my own business in 2008, I didn’t have any roadmap so I looked around to see who was doing it well and what I could learn from them. My role model was Chris Brogan, who had the number one marketing blog in the world. So my mantra became “Be like Chris.”

    Chris was constantly pushing the envelope and he has taken a lot of punches over the years when he tried something new. But every blogger owes him a debt of gratitude because many of the rules of the road we take for granted today were pioneered by him. But he was more than an innovator and role model. He was a content-producing cyborg. Sometimes he was publishing two or three times a day. And it was all so good, and it was all him: funny, raw, poignant, smart, and above all, honest.

    So that’s what I tried to replicate … and I nearly killed myself trying to keep up that pace. Brogan is a singularly unique talent as a blogger and the biggest mistake (among many) in my early career was trying to be somebody else.

    Don’t be Chris. (Or anybody else.)

    I am speaking from experience when I say that it’s difficult to not compare yourself to others and want to replicate their success. After a couple of months I realized that I was not Chris Brogan … sure, I could build on what I learned from him but I had to find my own blogging voice, my own path, and my unique audience. Over time, I discovered that I was pretty good at being me and really, that’s the only choice we all have!

    Obsessing with the success of others only leads to disappointment. You will never be me, or Jay Baer, because you haven’t lived our lives, you don’t have our experiences and personalities. But the lesson you will learn soon is that nobody can be you, either.

    Here are a few pointers to help you settle into your own space:

    Block it out. If you are having a hard time staying centered and you’re obsessing with comparisons, stop reading our blogs, tweets and posts, at least until your confidence comes back. If comparisons are a distraction, ignore them.

    Be patient and let your audience help you. Starting out, you probably put a stake in the ground and thought “this is what makes me different.” I did that at the beginning too — and I was wrong. I thought I knew what made me different but it didn’t really come together until my audience TOLD me what made me different. And the only way to learn that is to publish consistently for a long time and listen. My “niche” is still evolving as my readers tell me what they appreciate most.

    You need courage to rise. To stand out on the web, you need to be original. And to be original, you need to dig down deep and have the courage to show your personality and passion through your content. There is only one you. You have no competition, including me and Jay. Be you and attract your own audience.

    Don’t obsess with your “niche.” The job you’re doing now — is this exactly the job you thought you would be doing five years ago? The answer to that is almost always no. You carve your path in life by discovering your opportunities all along the way, Blogging works the same way.  If you don’t know your niche yet, don’t let that stop you from creating content. Just start. It’s likely that your specialty and interests will evolve and perhaps even transform over time until things become more clear.

    So the answer to your question is, don’t look at me or anybody else to establish your “goal.” You will never be happy or fulfilled by judging yourself by external measures. Look inside and start with the “why.”  Why are you doing this? How are you being rewarded by the journey? If the journey isn’t meaningful and you don’t have internal peace, do it another way.

    Don’t ever be me. Be the best possible you.

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    Many midsized software vendors adversely fumble the critical pursuit of game-changing market intelligence research and analysis that lead to strong go-to-market strategies. Continuously updated market intelligence is the keystone for understanding what software products vendors should be selling - and why; and to determine which customers and markets are the best fit for the vendor's offering now and in the future.

    Many midsized software vendors adversely fumble the critical pursuit of game-changing market intelligence research and analysis that lead to strong go-to-market strategies. Continuously updated market intelligence is the keystone for understanding what software products vendors should be selling - and why; and to determine which customers and markets are the best fit for the vendor's offering now and in the future.

    Midsized software vendors often lack essential experts, especially for solution and customer strategies, and strategic market intelligence. Usually these vendors don't have the resources to continuously update strategies. But just as often it's because strategic decisions aren't based on data and intelligence – they're based on "gut", previous experience or even ego. If any research and analysis are done, the work is often shallow and designed to "prove" what the vendor has already decided to do.

    Vendors seem to proceed with no clear indication of how their offerings and go-to-market plans might align to a clearly defined business solution space, or to specific customer and market segments. The main focus of many software vendors is still on feature sets, instead of forging a sharp commitment to delivering authentic and useful solutions for specific industry scenarios and business problems.

    Focusing on the right customers and markets simply means the difference between success and failure. There are many adverse outcomes of the failure to fully explore and understand the right target markets and customers. One serious oversight: midsized vendors often neglect a very lucrative market with lots of untapped potential -- Mid-market companies in every industry.

    Strong Showings for Revenue and Growth

    Several organizations have emerged that monitor the overall health of mid-market companies, in the U.S. and world-wide. A remarkable description of the mid-market comes from the National Center for the Middle Market:

    If the Middle Market were a country, its GDP would rank it as the fourth largest economy in the world.

    That kind of financial clout should capture the attention of numerous midsized software vendors. But here are additional strong stats for those who need more convincing:

    National Center for the Middle Market ***

    Initial research conducted by the National Center for the Middle Market has shown that the U.S. middle market is made up of almost 200,000 companies with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion, as of October 2011.

    Employment growth for mid-market firms over the past 12 months was 3.2 percent, which added an estimated 750,000 jobs to U.S. payrolls so far in 2014. If mid-market companies deliver on projected job growth of 3.3 percent, the sector will create 59 percent of all new jobs in 2014.


    Collectively mid-market generates approximately US$10 trillion of the US$30 trillion of annual gross receipts in the United States... and employ 43 million people...

    Economist Intelligence Unit

    In Japan, for example, the middle market accounts for a small proportion of Japan's total enterprises – 2.1 percent – but employs more than a quarter of total employment and generates about one-third of total revenues. Yet, like its counterpart in other countries, it receives comparatively little attention – arguably far less than it deserves given the middle market employs a quarter of the workforce, earns around a third of gross revenues and has demonstrated remarkable resilience amid the difficult economic conditions of recent years.


    Gartner predicts SMB IT spending this year will reach $901 billion, up from $868 billion last year, with estimates that spending will cross the $1 trillion mark by 2015.

    The Mid-Market Opportunity for Midsized Software Vendors

    Mid-market companies need software solutions that are sophisticated but not costly – and easy to implement and maintain. These companies need vendors who truly understand and support their business objectives for technology, and who provide right-fit solutions. Midsized companies embrace technologies as competitive differentiators and as a strategic means to sustain and grow their businesses. Midsized organizations need the right technology solutions to help them innovate their business offerings and to evolve with market changes to meet the needs of their customers.

    And that's where midsized software vendors come in. Companies in the mid-market are interested in all categories of software solutions, from operational excellence to improving customer relationships. So there is limitless opportunity for any kind of midsized software vendor – if they make the decision to purposefully target midmarket customers.

    A 2014 Deloitte survey focused on how midsized companies utilize technology both for infrastructure needs and for competitive fuel. The results resoundingly demonstrate that there is a tremendous opportunity for midsized B2B software vendors to provide solutions to their fellow mid-market organizations:

    Technology is becoming a strategic imperative. The survey findings confirm that mid-market companies' view of technology is increasingly enthusiastic. Forty-one percent of respondents say their leadership views technology as a "critical differentiator and key to growth," while another 38% view it as "a strategic investment." Fewer organizations now view technology as simply "necessary." As a result, more companies are using technology as a means to increase the top and bottom lines and to meet the needs of both the workforce and the customer. Meanwhile, more than half the respondents report plans for increased spending on technology.

    Many companies are embracing change and expressing a healthy appetite for innovation. Thirty-six percent of respondents are dedicating at least half of their IT budgets to implementation of new technology versus maintenance of existing systems.

    Technology may become a great equalizer for mid-market companies. Cloud-based solutions, data analytics and business intelligence solutions continue to provide "large corporation solutions" to mid-market enterprises in terms of the operational capabilities, overall productivity and competitive insights.

    Source: Deloitte


    Two Kinds of Mismatched Vendors

    All too often, midsized B2B software vendors think that the best markets are in the large enterprise. These vendors are lured by big money and big deals – without considering the real costs of what it takes to thrive in those markets – as a smaller vendor. Many midsized vendors do not survive forays into the turf of larger software vendors.

    The high-end enterprise is a very tough place for smaller software vendors. The field of potential customers is very limited, so competition is fierce. Larger software vendors already have established extensive relationships with these enterprises. Sales cycles are longer, which introduces more chances for failure to close deals – and for the squandering of finite resources for the midsized vendor. Even when a smaller vendor wins an initial deal with a large enterprise company, it is usually displaced by a larger vendor very quickly. With much deeper pockets, the larger vendor can easily offer steep discounts and free benefits.

    Conversely, when large enterprise software vendors target the mid-market, these high end vendors rarely go very deep into the overall mid-market segment (and seldom into "small business" territory). For the most part, large enterprise software vendors still don't really know how to support mid-market business needs or provide the right-fit solutions. Even though they claim otherwise, many large software vendors miss the mark simply because they do superficial work related to understanding mid-market organizations. In reality, larger software vendors tend to treat the mid-market as one market, failing to see how different the many tiers of the mid-market are.

    Source: Forrester Research

    Know Your Customers, Find Success

    A 2013 Forrester survey of executive level buyers revealed troublesome insight: the sales teams contacting these buyers usually had very poor understanding of the needs and problems of the buyer or even the buyer's role in the organization. Making things worse, sales teams met with these buyers with very little knowledge not only of the buyer's specific business but the buyer's general industry. Sales teams are meeting with important buyers without intelligent answers to customer questions, or even appropriate case studies to show product relevance to the buyer organization problems and needs. From my experience, this is especially true of sales teams for software vendors.

    Many midsized software vendors are missing a huge opportunity to purposefully target midsized and smaller companies for their products and sales efforts. These vendors can find success by understanding how their products relate to mid-market customer needs, especially for specific solution scenarios. Success also comes to vendors that know how to properly serve midsized companies during the entire customer lifecycle. Too often software solutions are designed and developed with limited customer and target industry knowledge.

    The decision for midsized software vendors to sell to mid-market companies should be a no-brainer. Midsized vendors are part of the mid-market – they can draw on their own buyer experiences for the software they purchase for their companies. There is also a healthy parity in relationships with fellow mid-market companies – a parity that is rarely exploited well by midsized vendors. Vendors as partners with their customers achieve success by helping their midmarket customers attain their business objectives. But midsized vendors can only do this if they understand how mid-market organizations buy and use software solutions.

    Finding the Right Markets – Providing the Right Solutions

    It's critical for midsized software vendors to fully understand the right markets for their solutions. But midsized software vendors often don't have the experienced resources needed to develop competitive and success-building strategies for product direction, customer targeting and robust go-to-market approaches.

    Midsized vendors greatly benefit from a consultant who stands outside the company and thoroughly assesses the current vendor state, and then explores potential new directions that help the vendor stand out from the herd. The right independent consultant has the savvy and expertise to help midsized software vendors better identify and serve a strong target market and distinct market segments, as well as provide rich and authentic customer experiences. The consultant looks for innovative business models, new or underserved markets, and competitive changes to how the vendor does business to find a better road to growth, improved revenue and longevity.

    Unfortunately midsized vendors many times turn to the large analyst firms for advice. Just as large enterprise software vendors are ill prepared to serve mid-market companies, most analyst firms don't understand selling software either as a midsized or smaller vendor, or targeting midsized or smaller companies as customers for software.

    Here are some of the jobs that I do to help your success:

    • Fully understand target customer markets by segment, including needs and business objectives
    • Identify who should use your solution and why – explore the problems your solution can address
    • Research and select one or two industries you'd like to work with; then select segments in the industry that work well for your solutions – for now and in the future
    • Analyze and build out specific industry scenario solutions that really work – focus on real target customers and real customer problems / needs
    • Monitor customers who are using the scenario solutions: fine-tune, improve, evolve into other focused solutions
    • Assess the success of the above to make decisions about new go-to-market strategies that will add growth to the company
    • Truly support customers throughout the lifecycle of the customer experience – repeat customer business is the most profitable

    *** The National Center for the Middle Market is a collaboration between The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and GE Capital

    Drucker graphic source: zenworkz.com

    I made a New Year’s resolution this year: buy nothing new and get what I need exclusively on Yerdle for a full year. I’m calling it “The Y4Y Challenge”: Yerdle for a Year!

    I made a New Year’s resolution this year: buy nothing new and get what I need exclusively on Yerdle for a full year.

    I’m calling it “The Y4Y Challenge”: Yerdle for a Year!

    It's my attempt to try out the buzz around the sharing economy. How sharing are we really?

    What exactly does Y4Y mean?

    No more brand new jackets. No more impulse buys. No more Amazon “let’s see what new gadgets are out there” indulgences. None of that. Instead, my exclusive source for material goods in 2015 will be Yerdle.

    If I decide I need something, I’ll have to post things I already own on Yerdle in order to earn Yerdle Credits to shop for what I want. Yes, I have to barter.

    And what if I run out of stuff to post?

    I may have to ask friends and family for their unwanted things — I’ll become a sort of pied piper for unwanted things, calling them out of their idle closets or drawers and getting them back into use.

    It will surely be a journey, and I invite everyone following it to join me and help me do this. I expect it to get harder as time progresses. It will test my commitment to my values. I might even make a mistake and buy something new at some point (noooo!). But I hope to use the whole experience as a vehicle to explore my own relationship to stuff and sustainability, and to examine broader trends in behavioral science, the sharing economy and reuse.

    I’m actually very excited about it. But back to the reality of today…

    How’s the Y4Y challenge going? So far, so good. (Yes, ok, only 3 weeks in).

    So, who is this crazy person who decided to take this Y4Y challenge?

    I’m a social media marketer, entrepreneur, yoga teacher, and as my friends and husband say, a Yerdle addict.

    But let’s start a little earlier: I was born and raised in Germany, where I grew up in an environment that taught me to care about our planet. I don’t remember ever not recycling paper, even though my parents had to drive it to a stinky place to drop it off. Soon, separating our garbage for recycling became the law.

    This is my home town. This is my home town.

    My parents showed a lot of civic courage and I found myself demonstrating against nuclear weapons and power at a young age. They taught me to speak up for what I believe in. I am a member of Amnesty International, have volunteered on a non-profit board, mentored an Afghan refugee and generally try to do my share.

    I am not writing this to say how wonderful I am, but to show that the mission of Yerdle is something that fits right into my value system.  

    But I am also as vain as the next person. I really like fashion and nice clothing. And I like having a modern and stylish house and garden with “cool stuff”. And electronic gadgets.  So far, I have satisfied my cravings on periodic shopping trips to malls (which I hate) and second hand stores. I like having new things but not shopping for them.


    As I run my social media marketing consultancy for a living, I get to work a lot from my home office. This has cut down on my need for fancy suits (hello, Hugo Boss). But as I do need to look presentable when I visit my clients in person, we will see how that works out.

    I started doing yoga to de-stress, became a teacher and now teach 2-3 yoga classes a week. I am also a big big fan of meditation and the mindfulness movement. I truly believe that we are all connected in this Universe and we have an obligation to take care of this beautiful world around us. Hence, #reuse, #recycling, and #sustainability matter to me.

    I met my husband in a bar in Palo Alto. He thinks I’m a little crazy for Yerdling so much, and he prefers to buy things new. We’ll se if I can change his mind a bit this year.

    Why did I decide to do this?

    I was introduced to Yerdle during a presentation on the collaborative economy, installed the app, and the rest is history. This was in April 2014.

    Yerdle says that: “The north star goal of Yerdle is to make sharing the new shopping.”  

    Their mission: “Reduce the number of new items purchased by 25%.”

    Yerdle is the new shopping

    That sounds great, right? But if you’ve watched the HBO series Silicon Valley or have lived in Silicon Valley for a while like me, you know that every company here wants to make the world a better place. Yes, living here, I have developed a healthy dose of suspicion and cynicism.

    Is Yerdle for real?

    As every self-respecting social media person would do, I took to Google to research Yerdle. I learned that Patagonia, a company I admire, had just become a Yerdle investor which gave me trust. Yerdle are also a B Corporation

    Soon after, I got invited to the Yerdle HQ in San Francisco for a Pro Yerdler meeting. Imagine my surprise when some of the Yerdle team actually seemed to know me, mainly from my social media conversations about Yerdle on Twitter and Facebook. Especially Rachel Barge made me feel very welcome.

    Adam Werbach

    Yerdle Co-Founder Adam Werbach spoke about the virtues of reuse and sustainability, as well as the future of Yerdle. I had to check out if he was for real.

    According to Adam’s Wikipedia page, he was elected as the youngest national president of the Sierra Club and has otherwise been engaged with organizations like GreenPeace.

    Being blond but not a dummy, I understand that convictions are good but that it takes more to run a successful business.

    Does Yerdle have what it takes?

    Adam Werbach once founded and lead the SF-based sustainability consultancy firm Act Now that was later acquired by Saatchi & Saatchi and is now called Saatchi & Saatchi S. Adam’s convictions were questioned by some when Act Now provided sustainability consulting to Wal-Mart. Something I hope I can ask him about some time. I generally think it’s good to try to achieve change vs. just complain.

    The other Yerdle co-founder is Andy Ruben, who used to work at Wal-Mart as their CSO and I am giving him the credit of the doubt that he has seen the light also, as he now, obviously, works at Yerdle.

    I like to believe he was trying to make Wal-mart more sustainable.  I don’t shop at Wal-mart or eat at McDonalds, but as many do, it seems better to make these companies better than to ignore them completely.

    Let’s GoAt the end of 2015, if I have not put my blog readers to sleep (or there are none), I hope to write a book about the experience. Please accompany me along the journey!

    Happy Yerdling!

    Get $35 in Credits when you sign up for Yerdle with my URL.

    Personal branding is such a messy topic because we all need to be marketable, but there is without a doubt a point where we cross from informing, educating and inspiring to build a personal brand to just becoming self absorbed.

    There is no question that we have entered a world where personal branding is important. Whether looking for a new career, a new customer or more visibility within your current organization, personal branding is an invaluable asset in these ventures. Having said that, part of personal branding requires a willingness to create, share and draw attention to yourself. Considering that some of the strongest ways to build a personal brand are through publishing your thoughts, public speaking and social media; there really isn’t a means to develop a strong personal brand without raising your hand and saying “I’m okay with being highly visible.”

    For some people this type of high visibility is easy. From celebrities to high profile business executives to social media ninjas and rock stars, some people just don’t mind being the center of attention. Not only are they willing to share every thought that comes through their mind as if we would all be missing out if they didn’t share it, but they enjoy it. Worse yet, it isn’t always just their thoughts (perhaps we could live with that) but rather it is their every accomplishment no matter how small; you just cooked and then proceeded to eat the best cheeseburger on the planet…Good for you! It’s a blurry line between narcissism, psychopathy and a genuine desire to help a company (yours or someone else’s) drive there thoughts, ideas and messages forward. This is why personal branding is such a messy topic because we all need to be marketable, but there is without a doubt a point where we cross from informing, educating and inspiring to build a personal brand to just becoming self absorbed. It doesn’t matter how many times you start a Facebook post with how honored or humbled you are that you were selected for having the best Eyebrows on a Wednesday by Joe Nobody's Blog; At some point it isn’t humble at all…it’s bragging and it’s obnoxious.

    To some extent my overarching resentful tone is probably rooted somewhere in my own insecurities. Over the past 5 years I have constantly found myself in a state of uncertainty as it relates to personal branding. I love to write, speak and share ideas that drive conversations forward. I have written 3 books, been published in countless national and global media outlets, keynoted terrific events and built a personal brand that has worked well for the business I am in (even that was hard to write).

    For all intents and purposes I have nothing to complain about, but yet I have this sometimes not so subtle irritation that has been exacerbated by social media and the shameless self promotion that so many feel no remorse for. Perhaps my favorite is when I hear people who speak on leadership or communication that suggest building relationships through empathy posting on Twitter or LinkedIn about all of the recent recognition they have received for a talk they gave or a book they wrote. Doesn’t that type of self-promoting banter seem hypocritical? If you tell me great leaders need to give, not take credit, then why are you publicly taking credit for your awesomeness? Shouldn’t those that you have impacted become your advocates? Isn’t that the power of word of mouth? Maybe word of mouth isn’t as powerful as we thought, or perhaps we aren’t quite as good we think we are. I would just think that if our work resonated our personal brand would be a byproduct; do we really need to toot our own horn?

    Personal Branding Is Important - But It Isn’t Bragging, It’s Adding Value

    There may be nothing more powerful than a great story. When your brand story is a journey that people resonate with the message will spread. When the messages you share impact and help others, whether a few or many, people will take notice. If you share the thoughts and ideas of your brand or your company to help proliferate advocacy, and it works, people will want to share your insights.

    Time and time again this has been at the root of personal branding. In fact this is what personal branding is all about. It’s about showing an ability to impact others through your work and ideas. Personal brand is earned, it’s not a right and it can’t be short circuited through self-serving antics. They may work in the short term, but in the long run they will more likely make you look like an egomaniac.

    I promise you I get the hustle. Sometimes you have to raise your hand at the right time, or take a big chance to be seen. Just about every star in every field had their moment(s) where they shined at just the right time. However, for most who rise in their field it is a lot of really smart work, long hours and a willingness to earn your stripes through continuing to share your ideas and thoughts one after another until something sticks.

    Much like the theme behind TED, “Ideas Worth Spreading,” every speaker that they bring in goes on stage and shares their ideas, and they pepper their presentations with stories, but rarely, if ever, will you hear the speakers provide a list of their accomplishments. If they are up there, chances are they did something pretty miraculous, no need to brag.

    I think in the end this is the root of the personal branding dilemma. A personal brand can and should be built through being consistently good or even great at what you do. If sharing your work is part of the process then share away. But I will say, and many may disagree that there is no need to brag, boast or even “Humbly” provide the world with your every accomplishment. Save those times for when you’ve hit the proverbial home run in your life or career. Funny thing is at the moment in which you’ve achieved that once unattainable benchmark; chances are you won’t have to tell anyone because your world (no matter how large or small) will be inclined to share it for you.

    Photo Credit: Creative Commons

    There’s rather a lot to suggest that social media isn’t very good for our general wellbeing. For instance, it’s widely believed that we aren’t especially honest when we share things on Facebook, and this curation leads us to portray ourselves in as good a light as possible. Now that’s great, except everyone else does too, and there glistening fakery thus makes us feel rather bad about ourselves.

    There’s rather a lot to suggest that social media isn’t very good for our general wellbeing.  For instance, it’s widely believed that we aren’t especially honest when we share things on Facebook, and this curation leads us to portray ourselves in as good a light as possible.  Now that’s great, except everyone else does too, and there glistening fakery thus makes us feel rather bad about ourselves.

    So the theory goes anyway.  A recent report published in partnership by Rutgers University and the Pew Research Center suggests the picture tends to be a little bit more nuanced that that.

    Indeed, the researchers go as far as to suggest that social media doesn’t really stress us out at all.

    “There is no evidence in our data that social media users feel more stress than people who use digital technologies less or not at all,” the authors say.

    This becomes even more nuanced when you look at the gender of social media users.  The results suggest that male social networkers were generally no more stressed than their non-Facebooking peers.

    Women however, were generally less stressed the more active they were.  So a woman who’s a regular Twitter users for instance, was on average 21 percent less stressed than a digitally disconnected peer.

    Interestingly, the results suggest the only time social networking actually increases our stress levels is when it brings us into contact with stressful events.  So you may, for instance, be made aware of something stressful happening in the life of a friend via Facebook, which in turn makes you stressful.

    “Facebook was the one technology that, for both men and women, provides higher levels of awareness of stressful events taking place in the lives of both close and more distant acquaintances,” the authors say.

    Social networks are generally pretty good at doing this, with the average user being made aware of 13 percent more stressful events due to their membership of sites like Facebook.

    It’s an interesting finding, not least because it contrasts so heavily with previous research on the topic.  For instance, a recent study highlighted the anxiety Facebook causes by constantly forcing us to compare ourselves with our peers.

    This would not only cause us stress but harm our self-esteem levels too.  Is the Pew/Rutger study enough to counter this general zeitgeist?  I’m not so sure.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.