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Top 10 Twitter Taboos

I was perusing my Twitter feed the other day when my eye caught a particularly off-the-cuff status. One entity I follow harshly criticized a rival. I couldn’t help but be put off. Friendly banter between competitors is normal and expected, but malicious conduct is not. A code of etiquette exists on all social media platforms—it mirrors what we would expect to observe in a face to face setting. The behavior I witnessed can result in a loss of followers, but more importantly, it can cost the trust of clients and partners.

As financial advisors, FINRA regulations add another layer of complexity to social media conduct. Here is a list of Top 10 Twitter Taboos for financial advisors:

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1. Tweet Advice Twitter is great for establishing initial connections and maintaining those connections. It’s not the venue to transmit sensitive information such as stock tips.

2. Tweet Blindly Twitter is interactive and published content doesn’t require FINRA pre-approval, but every financial company should have its own social media policy in place. Always consult with your company’s policy before participating in any social media activity.

3. Ignore the dissenters. Twitter used for business is about respectful engagement. Don’t shy away from people who offer different opinions or insights. Use this platform to acknowledge them; you can always request offline time to address an issue.

4. Post when tired or otherwise not yourself Chances are, there’s a more opportune time to post on Twitter than before going to bed. If you’re tired, in an emotional state, or relaxing with a glass of wine after dinner, you may not be in prime Twitter form. There’s no harm in waiting to tweet.

5. Tweet someone’s product Posting about someone’s product or service may be viewed as an endorsement, which can cross the line with FINRA regulations.

6. Use auto-responses. Canned replies feel impersonal and sometimes they don’t accurately apply to the situation. Twitter is an interactive platform, intended for social connection. Bottom line: There’s no replacement for a human being.

7. Tweet whatever comes to mind. Akin to tweeting when tired or in an emotional state, tweeting from the hip can backfire. Carve out time in your schedule for social media so you can really consider your tweets prior to posting. Even though it’s a social forum, you’re still using Twitter to represent yourself as a business professional.

8. Talk to yourself. Twitter encourages dialogue, often with individuals or brands you may not have access to otherwise. Don’t make the conversation one-sided; take time to learn about the people you connect with.

9. Retweet if you like it. Know what and whose information you are retweeting. Retweeting is often seen as an endorsement of content. As the head of a company, if you retweet an article you and your company are essentially blessing everything in that article, even its speculative commentary. Investigate prior to passing it along.

10. Stir the pot. This may seem pretty straightforward but you’d be surprised at how often this gets people into trouble. Retweeting content can proliferate speculative or false information if you don’t have a full understanding of the information you’re sharing. Also, remember that sarcastic undertones are often missed via the written word. A joke can be easily misunderstood.

Here is one thing you can do, whether on Twitter or any other social media network to provide value to your followers and define yourself as an expert in your field: provide unbiased education about various financial concepts.

For instance:

  • What is a 529 or gift tax?
  • What is the cap you can put into your 401k plan this year?
  • Tips on financial budgeting
  • What is the general economic outlook for 2014?

Finally, don’t forget to sprinkle in a bit of appropriate humor and personality so people can easily relate to you. Never lose sight of the reality that people buy from people. Your clients want to know there is a real person behind the tweet or status update.

Remember, if you’re interested in using social media, you’ll need a solid archiving & compliance solution in place. www.smarsh.com/socialmedia

Mind Mapping: New Directions Leading to New Ideas

Photo from https://www.examtime.com/

Photo from https://www.examtime.com/

Even on my best writing days, I may find myself staring at a blank computer screen; developing truly engaging content can be so challenging. I’ve learned that, although an editorial calendar can keep me on track, it’s pretty useless if it doesn’t have any content in it. Creating fresh ideas and content is important.

If I can grab ahold of even a general concept or topic, mind mapping is an ideal tool to develop that kernel into a complete body of work—because it mirrors the architecture of how our brains naturally function. (Though the human brain is still a mystery, research has identified that our brains search for information and process data in branch-like patterns.) The mind map method encourages and captures our organic thought processes in efficient and visual ways, flexing our right and left side of the brain. You can work out a map on good ol’ scratch paper or save some trees and use software instead. Working on a computer provides added benefits such as an endless work area and easy editing capabilities.

I’ve developed a quick how-to guide to get you started brainstorming on your mind map journey:

  • Start in the middle of a blank page, writing or drawing the main idea you’ll explore. I suggest you work with your paper or screen in landscape orientation.
  • Develop subdivisions, subtopics, and facts related around this central concept, connecting them to the center with broad lines.
  • Repeat the same process for the subtopics, branching individual facts off subtopics when appropriate. Connect each of those to the corresponding subtopic, using thin lines.
  • Let your right brain go crazy. Use lots of colors, drawings, and symbols. Be as visual as you can; the more effort you make, the more brain reward you’ll receive.  Mind mapping awakens memory power and information processing, as well as cortical skills of logic, rhythm, lines, color, lists, daydreaming, numbers, imagination, word, and gestalt (meaning: seeing the whole picture).
  • Keep idea labels short. Use a single word if possible—or better yet, just a picture. When you start mind mapping, it’s tempting to write blocks of text, but it will be much more effective if you represent your ideas with a single word or figure.
  • Vary text size, color, and alignment. Draw connective lines in different lengths and widths. Provide as many visual cues as you can to emphasize important points.

Mind Maps: Colorful and Cool, But Useful, Too!

Once you have a mind map in place, it’s important to know how to transform all the sensational ideas you’ve developed into a cohesive piece of writing. The large center hub of your mind map represents the main idea of your article or blog post. Create a double-spaced bulleted list of each sub topic. Under your subtopics, incorporate indented bullets for any additional details and facts you may have included on your original mind map. In just minutes, you’ll have an ordered list of every point you’ll want to cover in your written piece.

The mind map is a replacement of the outlines we’re familiar with when we need to organize thoughts and ideas. Truthfully, we aren’t linear, left-to-right thinkers (though traditionally, we cultivate our ideas in these directions) and mind maps really push us to think in radial ways.

This process probably won’t feel intuitive initially, but push beyond the awkward in search of the reward of previously unconsidered perspectives. There’s no time like the present to try a new methodology. Now that you’re motivated with all this fractal brain talk, get mapping!

You Can’t Break the Internet

 

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I’m sure it’s either happened to you or you’ve seen it play out. You attend a social event and wind up talking to a young adult, perhaps new to the workforce, and most likely clueless about investing. You try to expound the merits of getting started early. You may recommend a book, tell them about your own mentor, or offer them a quick overview of dollar cost averaging (or the miracle of compounding). But, you’re well aware of how this conversation will end: this overwhelmed twenty-something will politely thank you and immediately discard everything you’ve said. Investing often seems daunting to newcomers. There seems to be too much information to get started, so many younger professionals get a late start, and then find they must struggle to catch up to their peers.

Last Sunday, I attended a luncheon hosted by my friend Beth, held in celebration of her husband’s retirement. Beth has a huge family; there were guests of all ages. A scenario unfolded that was similar to the investment situation. Curiously however, the roles were reversed. A twenty-something, Celia, was offering advice on starting social media marketing for a new business venture. She was chatting with Kyle, a middle-aged lawyer who just left a big firm to start his own practice. By the end of their conversation, he seemed to wave her away; I saw confusion and what appeared to be a look of fear on his face. Over dessert, I asked Kyle what he was afraid of when it came to social media. He admitted that while he had a simple website, when it came to any further actions, “I know I’ll do it wrong.”

The Name of the Game

As some of you know, the most popular social media sites—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—walk you through the steps of getting a page up, running, and published within an afternoon. Have a cup of tea, relax, and let your mouse do the work. Whatever you do, do not dismiss the name of the game. Social media is designed to be social and, you know, fun. Since professionals, businesses, moms, and teenagers—representing users from so many countries possessing a wide range of tech savvy—access these interfaces, the set-up processes are low on frustration and difficulty by design. It’s all very intuitive and getting started usually entails filling out a form, which is the first step toward your business name being populated into the Facebook search user base. We call that “visibility.” The only way to “do it wrong” is to not do it.

On Being “Good at it”

Tech firms in Silicon Valley have embraced this philosophy and quote to reinforce the importance of proactivity: “Done is better than perfect.” This maxim is rumored to be plastered on Facebook’s office walls. Leveraging social media is akin to any game you’ve ever played. You may have liked the game the first time you played even if you weren’t so skilled. The more you do it, whether chess or social media, the easier it gets and the more nuances you perceive and understand. However, just establishing a social media presence isn’t a nuanced process. That is the single most important lesson here. You don’t have to be an expert at the game on Day One. You just have to play.

What If…?

I suspect the fearful ones are afraid they may break the Internet. (“What if I accidentally post a check-in at my boss’s house on every Facebook status?”) Honestly, it’s a little ambitious to believe that any of us are capable of breaking the Internet, because like the cockroach, it can survive just about anything. The Internet will always grow and morph and adapt to new terrain, prevailing more resiliently than ever.

Ultimately, the purpose of the Internet is to answer our questions. (Seriously, how did we survive before Google?) If, in fact, you believe that you’ve broken something, just ask the question. You’ll soon realize you are not alone in whatever life dilemma you face: “Why does my cat attack my feet?” or “Did I break the Internet?” (No, you did not.) And, for a really useful application of Google, you can search relevant questions such as, “How do I un-tag people on a Facebook status?”

What is the moral of this story? Giving in to fear of the unknown is a mistake. The rewards of social media participation are too great to be overlooked. It’s time to get Nike on yourself and “Just Do It.”

As you’re preparing to dive into social media, remember that you need to have a comprehensive archiving solution in place so that you’re able to meet regulatory requirements while getting your social on.

Mixing Politics & Advice: Advisors On The Mid-Term Elections

Throughout this year, there have been discussions about the blurring of financial advisors’ personal and professional lives on social networks. But to us they’ve seemed to be more about harnessing technology (social media archiving) and Compliance review than about establishing boundaries on what advisors could say.

Unlike in most professions, some advisors use their personal political views and affiliations to establish a common ground and attract clients. And, of course, elected leaders influence the economy and markets, and many advisors do their best to predict cause and effect.

With the mid-term elections upon us, we were eager to see how the AdvisorTweets stream this week would reflect advisors’ political thinking. We knew there would be no consensus to report, although if there’s a tilt among the advisors we follow, it’s to the Republican sensibility. But how far would advisors go on this channel?

We think of the content posting on a spectrum—there’s the random comment in the tweet, there’s a link to an article that the advisor is referring his/her followers to and then there’s the tweet promoting an advisor-authored blog post and some follow-up tweeting responding to others about the post.

We’ve seen all of the above this week but not to the extent that we expected. Most advisors followed by AdvisorTweets didn’t comment on the elections or the results they desired.

Here’s a sampling of election-related tweets, from @MikeJMacco @RyanGigous @FinancialNSites @BobRall @BerkAdvisory and @pennytree.

  1. Mike Macco
    MikeJMacco #Wisconsin is a #RedState again. and #Ohio too?! Excellent.

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  1. Ryan Gigous
    RyanGigous Folks do not want an “agenda”. We want government to protect us and enable us to enjoy a free life, not intervene in every part of our lives

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  1. Greg Powell
    FinancialNsites What costume will the Market wear? New Financial Insights eNewsletter from Greg Powell http://ow.ly/31Fha

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  1. David L. Bahnsen
    DavidBahnsen New at Viewpoint: Wednesday Morning Quarterback: The Election to Save the Republic http://ow.ly/19M5MJ

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  1. Bob Rall
    bobrall Will the election affect your investment portfolio? Read my latest blog to find out… http://fb.me/B1IqBI8S

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  1. David Lee Berkowitz

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  1. PennyTree Advisers
    pennytree I have always known that my home state of Massachusetts was different. Read my latest blog: Feeling Blue http://lnkd.in/9QRzNi

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SocialTurns: A Resource For Financial Services Social Media Issues

A social networking site launched today with the promise of serving as a melting pot for financial services professionals to come together on social media issues unique to the industry.

SocialTurns has been created by Socialware, the Austin, Texas-based social middleware platform technology provider. In the first few preview weeks, Socialware and others have recruited financial advisors, insurance, marketing, Compliance and technology professionals as members. As a result, the site is almost 400 members strong on its launch date.

“In a recent Socialware survey on social media usage among financial advisors, it was clear that although there is massive business value in social media for financial professionals, there is also a lack of awareness on how to do it compliantly and effectively–something that leaves the industry as a whole wondering where to turn next,” said Socialware CEO Chad Bockius.

Bockius hopes that creating a centralized location for social media-related discussion and questions will help move the industry forward. I do too, and I’ve committed to take part in the SocialTurns Council, which Bockius established to keep the conversations going on the community site.

The Council includes many names AdvisorTweets followers will recognize:

We think this could be a big deal for employees of financial services firms, slightly less so for financial advisors who are already proficient online networkers and may prefer their ad hoc, more tightly focused communities. Still, one can never have enough places to turn for help on a subject as dynamic and ambiguous as social media policies and practices.

Join today and become acquainted with what may be a significant industry resource.

Are You Getting The Support You Need From Asset Managers?

Even on a normal day when advisors’ tweets are links to personal finance articles and Peter Ustinov quotes, we pay close attention to them as a window to what’s shaping advisors’ thinking. So naturally we were fascinated by advisors’ reactions to the market’s tumble Thursday.

But the particular circumstances of Thursday lead us to a question and an apology.

From 2:15-3:30 p.m. EST, the very time the market was diving, I was sitting in a “Distribution Changes and Challenges” session at the Investment Company Institute General Membership Meeting. Executives from the top distributors Bank of America Merrill Lynch, LPL Financial, Fidelity Investments Institutional, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Edward Jones were describing what they need from their asset manager partners.

“The key to wholesaling is being in touch with us, being a partner. Go deep into the relationship,” said Andy Saperstein, managing director and head of wealth management for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. LPL’s Mark Casady told the audience they need to help advisors, including by making their content more portable as advisors increasingly participate in social networks. (See our Rock The Boat Marketing post for more.)

Was Thursday an occasion when, in fact, an asset manager helped you?

Half of the advisors polled by Investment News Friday said they heard from clients and 60% said they reached out to clients. A few advisors, we know from the AdvisorTweets stream, were contacted by the media for their analyses. Most Twitter-using advisors are avid information-gatherers and were no doubt working the Web and the television Thursday to make sense of what was going on.

Was an asset manager among your go-to resources Thursday? If not, how could the investment managers whose investment products/solutions you use have helped you? What kind of information would you have welcomed, in what format and on what timetable? Participating in evolving conversations, the core of social media, is how people and entities remain relevant. What relevant help could an asset manager have provided? What do you need that you’re not getting?

Please comment below. If you have something to say but don’t want to publish it, please send an email with your thoughts. I assure your confidentiality.

Next, the apology: We made a classic social media gaffe with the @AdvisorTweets account Thursday afternoon–all talking and no listening. During the session we were in broadcast mode, sending several tweets about the distributors’ comments on social media and other topics. It was only until after that we realized what advisors were dealing with and that our tweets were probably just in the way. We apologize for being so out of touch.

Here’s a chronological round-up of some of the market-related tweets from Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 starting at 1:52 p.m.CDT

  1. Ross @ Heart Capital
    heartcapital Technology advances supposedly for the past 20 frickin years & this system is an absolute joke – more distrust $$

  1. Rick Johnson
    ourjay There has to be something wrong with the NYSE computer systems. I am seeing intra day quotes from $50 down to $0.10 on highly liquid stocks

  1. Bob Bracey
    bobbracey somebody pass the Pepto-Bismol……

  1. Pasquale J Sacchetta
    PJSacchetta Talk about “irrational” markets…there is no way the “Greece” situation is the justifiable reason for a market meltdown in U.S.

  1. Jeff Rose, CFP®
    jeffrosecfp I just saw the market go from down 140 to down over 1000 to now down 400 in like 15 minutes. I think my heart just skipped a beat….

  1. Nathaniel Gehring
    nathangehring Watching market movement commentary makes me wonder when fin. planning professionals can finally separate from investment advisory world.
  1. Michael B. Rubin
    MichaelBRubin Why you shouldn’t have your emergency fund in the stock market: 2PM 5/6/10 can happen

  1. Jesse Felder
    jessefelder I wonder how the retail mutual fund crowd will respond. Funds have NO cash to meet redemptions.

  1. David Lee Berkowitz
    BerkAdvisory I’m alright…this is not the Eve of the Destruction…going to watch my kid’s baseball game: Who said the U.S. dollar & US was in decline?

Berkshire Hathaway Meeting An Online Twitter Event

It was the first Saturday in May and the horses were running in the Kentucky Derby, but on AdvisorTweets.com we were amazed to see the number of financial advisors providing updates and commentary on the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting in progress.

Whether in the aftermath of disasters or reactions to celebrity deaths, Twitter has proven its ability to bring parties together as a conversation develops. But we’re struck by this instance as advisors were tweeting right along with a wide cross-section of meeting observers including the Wall Street Journal, Fox Business Reporter Liz Claman, the Hilton Omaha and countless other professional and retail investors on Twitter.

You can use the AdvisorTweets search engine to see the tweets. Many but not all advisors used hashtags (#BRK2010, #Buffett). Others just mentioned Berkshire, Buffett and Munger.

The image below is from Google’s new Twitter replay capability showing the spiking of #BRK2010 tweets on Saturday. It’s not wholly satisfying, given that it’s missing a y scale.

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Tweeting of #BRK2010 on May 1, 2010

The meeting was televised live on CNBC, but advisors might have been following Morningstar’s live blogging from the meeting or even The Motley Fool Inside Value Twitter account (@TMFInsideValue).

We know that at least one advisor was there because he tweeted that he would be. But those who couldn’t attend seemed to be getting a lot out of listening to the reports, reacting and reacting to others’ reactions. While other media will report the content of what was said, many of the tweets included some color, as well.

In short, it was a bit of a fun online event that Twitter-using advisors jumped in and participated in. Did you? What did you think?

Main Street Reacts In Real-time to Wall Street Hearings

Wondering how the Senate hearings with Goldman Sachs are playing on Main Street?

Watch the AdvisorTweets.com stream today where multiple financial advisors are weighing in with their reactions to what they’re seeing and hearing on television.

Among the advisors we’ve seen tweeting this morning:

To read all related tweets, use our Search engine to search for Goldman, senators, $GS, etc.

Financial Advisors’ Tweets Lead To Rich Blog Content

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this week for followers of the financial advisors followed on AdvisorTweets.com–many of the tweets have been used to announce the availability of rich investment-related content on the advisors’ blogs.

It’s easy to underestimate Twitter and individual tweets. Each tweet affords no more than 140 characters and some advisors are better than others at self-promotion. That’s why we thought we’d offer this weekend reading list of the tweets this week that led to interesting advisor-generated blog posts.

Investor Behavior

@jonathanwsmith When Emotions Get the “Worst” of Us: [blog post] http://bit.ly/coF5xb
April 23, 2010, 3:54 pm (CDT) by jonathanwsmith
A thoughtful, long (by blog standards) post on making rational and irrational decisions

Trading

@researchpuzzler are we all “vogue traders” now? http://bit.ly/doHgD5 $$
April 22, 2010, 3:07 pm (CDT) by researchpuzzler
“Vogue trader” is proposed as the opposite of “rogue trader” and meeting the definition of “putting the world at risk, with managerial permission”

Shareholder Education

@heartcapital Blog post for avg investors using proxy season voting & annual reports as part of investment knowledge http://bit.ly/dfK4nC #vote #investing
April 19, 2010, 11:51 pm (CDT) by heartcapital
The “proxy season clues” to be found in the shareholder materials themselves

Personal Finance

@NealFrankle “How to Change Your Credit Card Story Quick” new post and ready for your TIpd luv right here…don’t make me beg…http://bit.ly/cVdI1u
April 20, 2010, 10:08 am (CDT) by NealFrankle
A motivational post directed at financial excuse-makers

The Financial Advisor’s Role

The workweek was book-ended by two posts that commented on life as a financial advisor.

@rwohlner New post: Financial Planning-Reflections on the Past 19 Months http://su.pr/21rezB
April 19, 2010, 8:10 pm (CDT) by rwohlner
A post that questions the constructive value of media and others that say financial planning, its models and tools have been proven worthless

@nathangehring Please RT! Many financial services companies do not want to work for you! It’s time everybody knew! http://bit.ly/dCLLJz
April 23, 2010, 8:39 am (CDT) by nathangehring
A no-words-minced post critical of lobbying efforts against the fiduciary standard

Guest Post: AdvisorConnect Emphasizes High-Quality Interactions

Earlier in the week, our Rock The Boat Marketing blog written for asset management marketers commented on the number of Web sites and online communities that are catering to the financial advisor. That’s a challenge for marketers trying to efficiently communicate with advisors, and it’s a different sort of challenge for advisors evaluating where to best spend their time.

With the following post, we kick off an occasional series of guest posts from founders and managers of advisor community sites. This post is written by Vincent Esposito, founder of AdvisorConnect.

AdvisorConnectImageNow that FINRA has relaxed some of the rules around using social media, many advisors are jumping in. They’re using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other tools all in an effort to build trust, credibility and market their practice. This is uncharted waters for many of us, and navigating through the social media landscape can be complicated and time-consuming.

I recently did an audio-cast with Impact Communications president Marie Swift titled, “How Advisors Can Use Social Media to Build Relationships and Market their Business.” Marie believes that social media should not replace the face-to-face marketing we all do. Instead, she believes it’s a great way to enhance traditional marketing and boost your “credibility marketing.”

For example, let’s say that you chatted with a prospect named Sue one evening at a cocktail party. The next day she goes into work and checks you out using a simple Google search. She scans your Web site, reads a few of your blog posts, and stops by your Twitter account to view your most recent tweets. She likes what she sees and decides to subscribe to your blog and start following you on Twitter. Over time, Sue begins to think about meeting with you to discuss her portfolio. Finally, she connects with you on Twitter to set up an appointment.

You just landed a new client simply by being present on the social Web and putting out good content to your audience. Scenarios like this are happening every day, so beefing up your Web site, adding some social media tools, and creating value with them is becoming more essential–especially if you want to attract the increasing number of Web and social media-savvy clients like Sue.

Another way advisors are using the social Web is by connecting and sharing ideas with one another through professional social networks and online communities. There are countless advisor groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and Meetup that you can check out. I have mixed feelings about these networks and their groups because most are overrun with spam and advertisements from every annuity company, insurance provider and CRM software company one can imagine. Plus, they are public facing and can present compliance issues. There may be some useful information and networking opportunities on these sites, but you need to sift through all the other stuff first. Who has time for that!?

After becoming frustrated with these networks and their spam-laden groups, I started a new private online community for advisors, called AdvisorConnect, which is designed to empower advisors to share ideas on everything from social media marketing to practice management to tactical portfolio allocation decisions–without all that “other stuff.”

Members Are Vetted

Membership is by invitation or approved request only, and each member is vetted before requests are approved. This enables us to keep the site free from spam while providing high-quality interactions with a community of professionals who have been in the business for some time and run a clean, successful practice. I have spoken to most of the members to get a feel for what they do.

To date, we have 130 advisor members from across the country with books ranging from $25 million to several hundred million. Most advisors are independents, working through broker/dealers. Some are RIAs. Collectively, our advisor members manage more than $5 billion in assets–mostly in fee-based accounts–with a diverse mix of stocks, bonds, ETFs, funds and alternative investments.

Each advisor brings different experiences and unique perspectives to the community. In addition, powerful social tools on the site enable advisors to exchange, capture and share knowledge, resources and best practices with each other at any time. It’s like having all of the networking and educational benefits of being at a conference at your fingertips–whenever you need it–and without ever leaving your office.

Membership is free to advisors and we don’t allow traditional advertising or marketing on the site. No banner ads, no pop-ups, no spam, no Google AdWords, no flashy marketing gimmicks and no member-generated BS. The site is secured using 128-bit SSL encryption technology and is FINRA compliant in the sense that the site is not public-facing and all content is saved and searchable.

If you are an advisor who is interested in such a resource, I invite you to join AdvisorConnect. I think you’ll enjoy the high level discussions taking place within the community. Just click the link below to join. You will be directed to a sign-in page and asked a few questions about you and your practice. It’s simple and takes less than two minutes. http://bit.ly/9xBL5S

I look forward to connecting with you online.