Blogger Relations Series: A Successful Blogger Relations Strategy

08/06/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations Part II

Social media a credible industry? Yes? No? I vote yes and not just because I've had a sip or two of the koolaid. Recently it was (re) validated with the launch of IBNMA - International Bloggers and New Media Association (disclosure: I am a board member) and consolidation of Social Media Group purchasing Livingston Communications.

However, with growth comes challenges and questions. A few of mine were to learn more about how bloggers, agencies and brands perceived a new strategy we are calling - Blogger Relations. I wanted to know:

  • Who was doing it right and who was doing it wrong
  • What did agencies want from bloggers and what did bloggers want from agencies
  • and most of all how could we work together for the benefit of the communities

Your_opinion_counts So I asked a few folks for their views. 99 people participated in an online survey. This is an industry .. let's call it .. pulse check .. NOT a statistically valid survey. However, the insights are note worthy and valuable. For the backstory see Part I Blogger or Journalist. My thank you and to the people who participated, and our community, is to post the findings. Since the posts tend to run long I'll be posting the analysis over the next couple of weeks. Today we'll dive into what makes a successful blogger relations strategy.

I was also curious to know, generally, if people were involved with blogger relations.  Question: Have you conducted/been ask to participate in a blogger relations strategy?

It seems that marketers, on the consulting and brand side have been busy out reaching to bloggers. 

Total response: 99 out of 99 - 100% response rate

Yes: 63%
No: 37%

My off the record thoughts are this will continue to escalate as marketers understand that bloggers bring not only reach into a niche community but a halo influence of credibility.   

From John Cass a comment which helps to clarify what is meant by Blogger Relations.  "However, we have to define blogger relations. To me it has two meanings 1) the pitching part in media relations, but to bloggers, 2) having a dialogue with a blogger, without the intent of pitching something, but to share ideas, and discussion." Read more from Jon.

Question: Other than meeting goals and objectives .. how do you define a successful blogger relations strategy? Who is doing it right? Who is doing it wrong?

Total responses: 87 out of 99 responses - 88% response rate

 

There were three big take aways for me from the responses to this question:

  • It's Not About You

  • Relationships Matter

  • Honesty Is Critical

However, Francois Gossieaux reminds us that blogger relations is a component of a what should be a larger strategy of the benefits derived from social media marketing. "Blogger relations sounds so PR-ish...I think that if companies are considering just blogger relations that they will get short changed on what the social media-induced changes can deliver to their overall business and marketing."

In addition, for one respondent participating in a blogger relations program where the blogger perceives that is is all about helping "someone else make money" will never fly.

  • I don't understand why anyone thinks I would use my valuable real estate for free advertising someone else makes money on. I get two or three dozen contacts a week of this sort (including once - honest - adult bibs) and they all waste my time. Until there got to be so many, I answered politely explaining my position. Now I just delete them. Let them buy ads as in any other kind of publication. - Anonymous

It's Not About You

Rohit's simple but elegant statement, "One where everyone benefits" indicates the sentiment of many respondents. A successful blogger relations strategy is a win for the blogger, the brand and the community. Rajesh Lalwani reminds us that it is also an opportunity to co-create. Developing the conversation was important to others.

  • Positive reaction from bloggers, providing something of value to THEM, not just yourself, communicating as a human, not just like a company, understanding both the blogger and his/her/their audience. – Anonymous
  • Did you strike a 'relationship'? Did you gain insights from the blogger and her community? Did you co-create? If you did, or will, to me is a successful blogger relations strategy. – Rajesh Lawlani
  • A great blogger relations strategy is about connecting entities together -- people, companies, and organizations. It's about starting conversations and dialogue in a very real sense. - Michael Rubin
  • There is a genuine mutual interest created between blogger and subject trying to maintain blogger relations. - Prashant Kew
  • I'd say that success is collaborating for the greater good and ultimately to help get the truth out to the end consumer. - CB Whittemore
  • I have been approached by a few companies in the not for profit field to write about their programs. The content fits well into the scope of my blog. When they provide me with an outline of their service it and how it fits well into my blog I like it even more. - Randal Moss
  • For a corporation or business, effective blogger relations strategy involved educating a reader, NOT promoting products or brands.- Michelle Miller
  • Blogger relations strategy is a success when bloggers are talking about a company without necessarily realizing that there IS a strategy. Precious few companies are doing it right as of yet, in my opinion. - Dave Taylor
  • A successful strategy is one isn't a "strategy," but a way of being and respectfully interacting with others. Would you pass the small town test? Are you contributing to the town structure or using the town structure for your own gain and not giving back your fair share? Are you putting as much energy into the blogging relationship as you are expecting them to put into you? - Mary Hunt
  • Blogger relations to me encompasses good dealings with other bloggers, the client you are serving as consultant or official blogger, and with readers who interact with your blog via comments, links, quotes, email, and real life meeetings. - Stephen Straight

Relationships Matter

From the comments it was evident that building relations was considered the cornerstone of this type of communication out reach. How do you create a relationship? For Dina Mehta "Doing it right is engaging in meaningful conversations in a transparent fashion with an involved target audience."

  • Building relationships and really telling you what consumers are thinking/doing. It's viral and the absolute best WOM marketing out there. - Kate Spencer
  • A successful blogger relations strategy does just that - builds relationships. It reaches out over time and adds value to the blogs that it seeks to partner with, in addition to understanding their readers. It gets the conversation going around the product or service in question, and success occurs when the discussion builds beyond what was expected. - Becky Carroll
  • The relationship comes first. As Jason Falls says, "you have to live it." The folks who are doing it right are almost invisible as blogger relations. They talk about the same things and show concern for the same things we do. - Liz Strauss
  • The idea of a blogger relations strategy begins with the words relations - it is all about building a mutually rewarding and inspirational relationship between the blogger and the agency/client, and sharing that passion and insight with the readers. Those who attempt to skip this step, or pretend to be involved when they are really not, are doing it all wrong. - Anonymous
  • Developing a relationship with blogger over time & participating in comments/discussions to the point where blogger would consider me/client a go-to source on my topic of expertise. - Anonymous
  • Those who do it right realize they are engaging in relationship management, those that do it wrong are just looking for the mention/hit - Kami Huyse

Trust Honesty & Trust Are Critical

Is it really a surprise that in the social media world where virtual relationships are formed without the benefit of a physical handshake or eye contact that honest, trust and let's add in authenticity would be a given in working with bloggers?

  • Communication and honesty is key. Providing and receiving honest feedback regarding what works and what doesn't helps. I think like any other relationship, opportunities need to be mutually beneficial to both parties. - Anonymous
  • Full disclosure of the relationships – Marianne Richmond
  • Trust (that) is real, authenticity (that) can be counted. - Beth Kephart

What Constitutes A Successful Blogger Relations Campaign?

Respondents offered several different ideas of what "success" meant to them. A few people indicated success was a change in perception while others felt it was the extent of that bloggers engaged with your product/service/brand to several it came back to establishing trust on both sides of the equation.

  • As far as defining a successful blogger relations strategy, it depends on the scope of the program. The best strategy is a long-term plan for building relationships with key bloggers, but it is possible to start small and identify the right bloggers to connect with for a certain campaign. - David Berkowitz
  • How your (agency, marketer, consultant) reputation emerges at the conclusion of the process. - Anonymous
  • Changing perceptions of the public. - Anonymous
  • A successful strategy is when a) the bloggers you want to help move your story know you and trust you as a reliable source of trustworthy and interesting information and b) the bloggers know you will give them the information in easily bloggable form (elements at least of the Social Media Release) - Des Walsh
  • Creating buzz for a project/product and changing consumer perception, which is hard to measure - so many things are at play, including the product or service itself- is it buzzworthy? - Alan Wolk

Measuring Success

For most of the respondents a successful blogger relations strategy has many moving parts that support success. A few people commented on how to measure success.

  • Success is measured in many different ways depending on the campaign. Is it a product launch? You probably want as many review posts as you can get, and secondly, comments/trackbacks on those posts. Depending on the item and the collateral you make available, this might also include UGC videos with your products, that are then distributed and shared. Is it an ongoing branding campaign? Then this is harder to measure, as in traditional campaigns. Is it part of an overall marketing strategy? Then posts, views, comments, and trackbacks become relevant metrics. – Roxanne Dahling
  • The success isn't necessarily numbers, or big numbers. If you're key influencers are 5 people ... and you reach them, well - "Victory is mine!" Look at the small nonprofits that are engaging just their key/core stakeholders. Many are doing it. They just don't get the big time buzz from the high profile bloggers. Why? Because they are not corporate and don't present potential clients (or huge linkbacks) for the bloggers. Crass, you say? No. Reality. - Robert French
  • 2x the 'blog mentions' than blogs pitched
  • A good blogger relations strategy can be wrapped around a few benchmarks that can define success. one being branding, 2 being exposure, 3-product release, 4-customer relations 5-corporate communications. Rather than give you specific examples I would implore people to read Naked Conversations by Scoble and Israel - Marc Meyer.

Doing It Right

The following is a list of companies and consultants that some respondents felt were doing it right. The numbers represent the times mentioned by different people.

Ford
SAP -2
Pentagon
ComcastCares
Cisco
Dell -6
Graco
Southwest Airlines
Lands End
Playnormous
IBM
Intuit
Microsoft
SUN
Stonyfield Farms
Carter Lusher
Toby Bloomberg -3
Ann Handley
Seth Godin
Guy Kawasaki
Darran Rouse
Yvonne DiVita
Liz Strauss
Chris Brogan
Brian Clark
Nokia
Smaller, nimbler companies
Larger companies with dedicated resources
Social marketers whose everyday revolves around blogging

Cyndee Haydon felt blogger relations involved continuous active participation in social media conversations and offered an example.

  • "I think @ComcastCares is doing it right on Twitter - By participating in the conversation and being responsive. I know of 3 people who have had Comcast problems - went the traditional route to get help and were completely frustrated and writing about that then they used twitter to get to ComcastCares and the problems were solved - and they told everyone about the great service on large blog networks (one with 95000 members) - the viral marketing and PR was "priceless".

Doing It Wrong

  • Walmart - 2
  • Most PR agencies

Anita Campbell brings another perspective that reinforces social media marketing is a young industry and we have much to learn from each other.

  • "As for anyone doing it "wrong," I simply prefer to think of it as them not quite being where they need to be yet -- not that they are wrong. All this openness makes us pass judgment too harshly and too quickly I think. Let's give companies and people time to learn and grow in their blogging.

Other respondents provided specifics of how people were off track.

  • Doing it wrong: 1. mass mailings of generic promotions and press releases 2. false statements such as "I've been reading your blog and - followed by boilerplate 3. promoting products and services clearly unrelated to the blog's topic, intent or audience 4. continuing to email after having been told the blogger is not interested. - Anonymous
  • Doing it wrong? Most companies who look at social media as another channel. - Anonymous
  • "Unsuccessful blogger relations all have one thing in common, which is that they are one sided and offer little value to the bloggers and therefore come off as nothing more than spam. - Anonymous

Success How To Do It Right

Several people included specific ideas on what it takes to implement a successful blogger relations out reach.

  • Successful blogger relations campaign is only going to bloggers who might actually have a reason to be interested in what you're selling, approaching them as if they were human beings, knowing what they write about, and giving them the story before you give it to everyone and her dog. - B.L. Ochman
  • The ones who do it right don't blanket e-mail, do know their audience in advance. They create relationships and value before they ask for value. (Sounds like social media mores, eh?) – Drew McLellan
  • One in which there is a product/service related rationale for soliciting the bloggers opinion (i.e. the product is for babies and mothers are askd to try the product) and the value of the product is not perceived to be "payment" for a blog post/recommendation (e.g. Nikon, Microsoft Vista)....and there is full disclosure of the relationonship. Another "right" would be if I have written something negative about a product or service, an acknowledgment of some sort from the company that addresses the issue should also be part of a "successful blogger relations strategy"; similarly a successful blogger relations strategy should include contacting bloggers writing negative or positive posts about competitive products or services ... a reach out to "try ours". – Marianne Richmond
  • Develop highly customized and personalized programs for the client to reach out to the bloggers. These programs should add value for the blogger. - Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i
  • (With caveats of my answer to #2 above) 1) has the person/org looked at the diverse strategic application of blogs as a communication medium. Have they then been strategic about their selection/use? 2) are they ready to use this particular medium, understanding it is not simply a "broadcast as usual" medium? 3) are they getting and productively using the feedback and connections made through blogging? 4) Is blogging done by more than one person (i.e. moved beyond centralized, controlled information dissemination)? - Nancy White
  • Successful strategy includes finding the bloggers that reach the audience you want, making sure that your product/service is something that fits within what the bloggers write about, reaching out in a respectful and compelling way to offer something of value (info/news/an experience), and being available for follow-up dialogue with the bloggers. - Nedra Weinreich
  • Success means being accepted by bloggers (i.e., conversing and interacting), without you sticking out like a sore thumb or it seeming forced. - Anita Campbell
  • It's also to help create a community that feels comfortable having useful discussions about a product or service. - Yvonne DiVita
  • A successful strategy is similar to any journalist outreach, read our stuff first, don't spam us with the same bcc email you send to 50 people. Be a part of my small online community first, then craft a custom message. - Jay Berkowitz
  • Folks who do it right don't try to control the outcome of what bloggers cover, but do offer them full and equal access to their business/event/whatever. - Ann Handley
  • Personal mailings indicating the topic and reach of the blog are understood and suggesting there might be a fit, with appropriate facts - Anonymous
  • B/c of the topics in my blog, I'm in the pool of bloggers that the Pentagon invites onto conference calls with various military experts; they are doing a good job of connecting bloggers with experts or actors who have specific knowledge of topical newsworthy issues. - Winds of Change
  • A successful blogger relations strategy discusses thought provoking issues which leads to meaningful comments and gets readers to become and stay engaged in the blog. - Merrill Dubrow

Next Up: Part III Agencies tell bloggers their side and what they want in the relationship.

Thanks to the 99 people who kindly responded. The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

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Comments

Toby, First - congratulations on IBNMA! Very exciting news.

Second, what you have uncovered with this blogger relations survey is outstanding. Again, what a terrific range of responses, but also so much synergy.

Thank you so much.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Aug 6, 2008 10:21:13 PM

Toby, it's an incredible series, and I'm learning a ton from everyone, so thanks for pulling this together.

Posted by: David Berkowitz on Aug 6, 2008 11:27:46 PM

thanks so much Toby, interesting results to the survey. I think the sentiment about "it is not about you," makes a lot of sense. Really it is about realizing that social media is a different way of conducting business where there is a possibility of having a dialogue with customers in a public forum. So that the relationship is on equal terms. That public forum will keep both parties honest and shine a light on either a company or customer that does not treat the other party with respect.

Posted by: john cass on Aug 7, 2008 1:08:47 AM

Really useful data...great organization and insights!

Marianne

Posted by: marianne richmond on Aug 7, 2008 2:02:06 AM

This is very insightful. I'm so bummed that I missed the survey. (In my opinion, method and Nintendo are two other companies that are getting it right!)

Posted by: Kimberly/Mom in the City on Aug 7, 2008 9:37:18 AM

@David @CB @Marianne Thanks for your kind words and generosity to share your insights. Hope they will help agencies/brands understand this new world a little better.

@John - isn't it interesting that somewhere along the way in business the marketing/advertising world side stepped respect for the customer?

@Kimberly - I'm bummed too! But thanks for adding your comment and especially the additional companies that are getting it right. It's important to acknowledge and look to those who do a great job.

Posted by: Toby on Aug 7, 2008 9:54:43 AM

Toby, also sorry I missed your call to participate in the survey, but you've done a great job here of highlighting responses from several of the 99 respondents.

Here are my key points for the right way to do blogger relations:

1. Know the difference between bloggers and journalists (something you covered adeptly in Part I)

2. When possible, build up a relationship with the bloggers before you need to pitch them

3. Personalize your outreach -- and don't sound like a salesman in the process. Show that you've read the blog and make sure you get the blogger's name right!

4. Provide something of real value for the bloggers and/or their readers.

Posted by: Bryan Person, LiveWorld on Aug 7, 2008 11:03:00 AM

Toby,

What a monumental and absolutely invaluable effort.

For those who have taken the time (considerable time :-) to wrap our heads around this vital, living and breathing concept known as 'social media' it is just beginning.

And as Anita Campbell said about those 'doing it wrong'...I agree. It's only wrong until they finally get it right. It's a learning process as this is a new frontier.

Thanks for, again, for your energy and commitment to doing it 'right.'

Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel on Aug 7, 2008 12:52:50 PM

Wow. This work is great, Toby. I would like to have participated in the survey as well. However, your results are the same results I would have given, so you didn't need me. :) I am a blogger, journalist and pr specialist. I agree that pr agencies are doing it wrong, especially those that represent publishing and music recording companies. I also there is a bit of lazy-itus going on when they approach bloggers. They don't take the time to take a look at some successful blogs within their marketing demographic and see what they do, so that when they approach them they can have a decent conversation instead of a request to review some books.

Posted by: Dee Stewart on Aug 7, 2008 1:34:00 PM

Toby, you put the best information on your blog. I'm always delighted to participate but more than that, I know that I will come back and learn something from you, and the others you interview or talk with.

This is so valuable to me as a blogger, as a marketer, and as a woman trying to connect with other women - to achieve success in an ever changing environment.

Thank you for the time you take to give us such quality content.

Posted by: Yvonne DiVita on Aug 7, 2008 4:37:24 PM

One more congratulation on this very valuable synthesis.

I could be wrong, but after reading your report, it felt to me that blogger relations is still mainly limited to the tactical execution of campaigns with a beginning and an end (i.e: for a product launch).
While campaigns are certainly part of it, I think there's a another important component which is the ability of a company to establish timeless relationships with their community of relevant bloggers. The measure of success would then be how many of those bloggers are in the composite network (Facebook, linkedin and so on...) of the company marketing team.

Posted by: laurent on Aug 7, 2008 7:04:05 PM

great series Toby! I've been unplugged on vacation so didn't see this til today.

I learned a lot from everyone.

Rock on! Can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Posted by: B.L. Ochman on Aug 7, 2008 8:30:37 PM

@Brian - Thanks for sharing your tips and point of view about blogger relations. Excellent suggestions that I'm sure many will take to heart.

@Susan - Yes, yes yes! It is a learning process and the exciting aspect is we are together changing the way business is done to the way business should be done. And *your* online university will absolutely set a new model for learning.

@Dee - Of course I needed you! I am glad that you popped by to added your thoughts to comments. I was told by a PR guy that because BR takes a lot of time (and trust me it does if you want to identify relevant bloggers) it's not a scalable tactic for most companies to do 'right.' I'm not sure if it is laxy-itus or lack of resources or not being able to bill out to cover costs. But as we've seen it is not as easy as buying a list and sending out a press release.


@Yvonne - Your words ring true .. it is an 'ever changing environment' and unlike other business strategies/tactics the rules of this game are continuously evolving. It can be a bit exhausting .. but what fun!


@Laurent - Good point and one that I think Francois was trying to make. The tactical aspects of a BR strategy e.g., reaching out to bloggers should be one element of the mosaic. If after beginning the process of building relationships with as you say 'relevant bloggers' a company steps away .. shame on them for a loosing a valuable opportunity.

@ B.L. - It's been interesting to see the different point of views and even in a simple survey the passion that people have for social media.

Posted by: Toby on Aug 7, 2008 10:58:01 PM

Toby,

Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. It has been so fun watching this "group think" communication platform evolve.

There are a lot of smart people and interesting opinions here.

Posted by: JD Valerio on Aug 9, 2008 5:26:38 PM

Toby,
Enjoyed seeing the results for your survey and seeing what other bloggers are experiencing. Appreciate being included.

Congrats on IBNMA Board position - you're a great addition!

Posted by: Cyndee Haydon on Aug 12, 2008 11:13:39 PM

Toby,
I'm sad I missed the survey...and am just now seeing this post! I am so honored that Playnormous is listed among those that are "Doing It Right." I'm practically speechless. I was given the daunting task of starting up http://www.playnormous.com/blog, Monster's Blog, earlier this year with almost no previous knowledge of blogging or how to use social media in a business setting. I would not have survived without the savvy insight from blogs like yours. To be listed on Diva Marketing Blog amongst those like Darran Rouse and Yvonne DiVita...wow! A perfect example of why I love social media. It's not all about the numbers; it's about reaching your target audience effectively. Thank you, and keep up the good work, IBNMA Board Member. Congrats!

Posted by: Melanie M. Mowry, MPH on Aug 26, 2008 6:07:15 PM

Nice post! You may join all the responses into one know-how article and upload at http://rapid4me.com/ - it is likely to become a hit!

Posted by: Mike on Feb 26, 2009 2:49:46 AM

Quite an interesting opinion, really glad that I have found this post.
http://healthnova.org

Posted by: HenryBee on Oct 3, 2009 4:59:59 AM

For those who have taken the time (considerable time :-) to wrap our heads around this vital, living and breathing concept known as 'social media' it is just beginning.

And as Anita Campbell said about those 'doing it wrong'...I agree. It's only wrong until they finally get it right. It's a learning process as this is a new frontier. http://www.mediafilelinks.com

Posted by: Kerry on Feb 5, 2011 11:40:49 PM

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