Ebert found his voice again in social media

Mike Royko. Irv Kupcinet. Gene Siskel. Jack Brickhouse. And now, Roger Ebert joins the company of these and many other Chicago media icons who have passed on. For Ebert, most will memorialize him of course for his landmark TV program bantering with Siskel. But my first thought upon hearing of his passing was how this remarkable man, due to devastating cancer that had robbed him of the ability to speak, had found a new voice in his use of social media. Most of us couldn’t even fathom the thought of not being able to speak, yet Ebert channeled his energy into a wonderful new electronic format. There, in true journalistic form, he rendered opinions that carried great weight and credibility, just as he had for so many years before. In fact, unless it was my imagination, he even threw more opinions online that weren’t necessarily confined to cinema either.

Think about this – there are countless people who don’t have the focus or energy to do online writing. And they’re perfectly healthy.

Which made me consider something:

If you literally lost your voice and had 5 years to live, what would you “say”? 

Sure, you’d probably go through a wave of emotions, experience bouts of depression and question why this happened. But at some point, you might emerge from that, look at the hand you’ve been dealt and say to yourself that you still have time to communicate with the world through what you write.

What would you write about? Where would you say it? If you needed help, who would you turn to?

To make this easier, think about this in terms of your personal passions, not your business. We all have various topics that we love discussing: Food. Fashion. Cars. Sports. Travel. Politics. Technology. Religion. Beer. Anything. These are the other things outside of what we do for a living that also nourish the soul. They don’t go away even when our physical limitations prevent us from speaking them.

Knowing you could be blogging about that particular topic and that your time is limited, you’d reach a point where you’d plunge into it without restraint, without even thinking about it. You’d worry less about what this or that person thinks. You’d attack the day needing that blog. You’d just have to get the words out. There’d be something to say about our world today and something they’d remember you by later in the process. You’d worry less about financial gains from it first and foremost and instead, write for the pure joy of sharing and connecting to others.

But here’s the thing: Do we have to wait until we’re in a state like that to begin? 

You and I both know the answer to that. We don’t. We can consider how our own personal brands are sides of us that need nurturing too. There’s a story there worth telling that may or may not have anything to do with what we’re about professionally. And that’s OK. We just have to give some serious consideration to the purpose of our writing and choose the kinds of things that never feel like they’re a chore to say. There’s nothing to hold us back. It’s a remarkable feeling of freedom and self-fulfillment. And by the way, we have the technology to do it easier than ever, so that excuse is out the window too.

So…what’s stopping us?

Desire to share the story is the missing ingredient. You have it or you don’t. Thankfully for the rest of us, Roger Ebert didn’t fade away in these last years of his life. Even more powerful than the message was his inner strength to want to keep sharing, keep telling, keep communicating in other ways. And in the process, he showed many of us, healthy and disadvantaged, that when you have the passion to be heard, your final scenes can be as memorable as any that came before them.

 

 

Crashing, Healing and Rejuvenating Your Career Like Never Before

V2-121219757

Steve Fretzin
President
Sales Results, Inc.

You’ve heard the story before. A young gun 20-something in Sales living the bachelor’s life at a fast pace. He’s making it happen with all the material possessions that point to success – a nice paycheck, condo, a Porsche in the garage and late nights at all the hot spots in town.

Then Steve Fretzin climbed into a small plane and his outlook on life as an entrepreneur changed forever.

“I was taking a little mini-vacation with some friends and flew up to Eagle River, Wisconsin for the day to play around. One of my friends was the pilot. On our return flight, we lost our engine thousands of feet up.”

The plane crashed into a house in Crystal Lake. While feeling lucky to have survived the experience, Fretzin was badly hurt and his recovery over the next several months was anything but pleasant.

“Basically, it was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my life,” Fretzin recalls. “I had torn the meniscus in my knee, broken right arm and dislocated my left shoulder and hip from my body. Meanwhile, I was having nightmares about falling out of the sky.”

Upon healing after the long road back, Fretzin had the wake-up call about having a greater perspective on life and “living every day as if it were your last,” that you might expect when one has a life-altering experience. But it wasn’t confined to his personal relationships. He had a wake-up call for his career too.

“Though I seemingly had a lot of nice material things, I was lost in my priorities and overall desire to make the most of each day,” he says. “Once I peeled back the layers of the onion, I realized that I wasn’t really happy in my job. I was going through the motions and needed to get serious about the meaning behind what I did for a living. What could I do every day where I could look myself in the mirror and feel good about my role in this world?”

Today, as the President of Sales Results, Inc., Fretzin has become one of the top sales trainers in the Chicagoland area and has appeared on several media outlets as an authority on sales, networking and how to create deeper connections in business through developing strategic partnerships.

Hopefully you’ll never have a traumatic experience as Fretzin did in order to find the focus of your life’s work, but here are the top 5 suggestions he makes to entrepreneurs struggling with how to channel their professional purpose:

#1 No matter how smart you are, everyone needs help.

Find someone who knows more than you and has a skill set you don’t have. Bring people into your life who help you. “Thomas Edison didn’t do everything on his own,” Fretzin explains. “He actually surrounded himself with people who had complementary skill sets. Just as the President does with his Cabinet. So ask yourself who you can bring in as a friend, partner and mentor to help you. Top executives have coaches. I continue to do that with my business every day.”

#2 Genuinely help people and build relationships so that when you need help, you can call on them.

You can’t just be a “Taker” – you need to get to know people, help people and stay in contact for the relationship to blossom. You shouldn’t just sit on your rear end and expect strong relationships to happen.

 

#3 Time is your most precious asset

“My whole day revolves around business development – but it’s not just about sending out e-mails,” Fretzin says. As he sees it, entrepreneurs often have a difficult time shoving off the “busywork” that might be done during off hours, which interferes with what absolutely needs to happen during the day. “You’ve got to get out there doing productive things for your business. Who are your strategic partners? When was the last time you were in touch with them and what referrals have you brought one another lately? What networking events are you attending? Can working on that proposal wait until later tonight so you aren’t eating up precious face time with people today?”

Even here, Fretzin says that people can confuse activity with progress. Which is why he is a big proponent of setting an agenda for each meeting and by the end of that meeting, both parties agreeing to specific and actionable steps to see if there’s a fit from a networking or sales perspective.

 

#4 Never stop learning.

It is critical to continue your education and never stop learning.  Whether it’s learning sales, how to interpret web analytics or social media, it’s imperative to commit yourself to learning new things.  People who stop learning and believe they’ve learned all they’re going to learn will get stale. If you do read something you know, it’s will simply reinforce that you are on the right track.

#5 Don’t “sell” people, but rather walk them through a buying decision.

That’s right. A sales coach which is telling you not to sell in order to drive the business forward. In his new book entitled “Sales-Free Selling: The Death of Sales and the Rise of a New Methodology,” Fretzin explains that in today’s competitive marketplace, there’s no reason to carry the traditional sales approach into a meeting.

“People don’t want to be sold. What you really need to do is walk the buyer through a decision. When you stop selling and start listening more, you’re in a much better position to understand a buyers needs and help them make a better business decision.”

In a time where we hustle through life trying to make sense of it all, it is critical to reflect on what you have, what you want and how you are going to make the most of each day. In the words of Mr. Fretzin, “live each day as if it were your last. You’ll be surprised how much you accomplish.”

Read more: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20121219/BLOGS06/121219757/entrepreneur-crashes-and-finds-career-purpose-from-the-wreckage#ixzz2FWaGsQea
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Be remarkable? That’s not all there is, Seth.

Every day I learn something new and am inspired by brilliant minds in a variety of places – articles, conferences, books, seminars/webinars, you name it.

But there’s a group of people I’ve been scratching my head about to understand the appeal. One of them has come to symbolize this group. We’ll just call him…Seth. Seth’s written many books and given thousands of presentations. There are disciples of Seth and he seems like a likeable fellow.

Yet something has always bothered me about Seth and I have to say it: I don’t get how what Seth’s saying is all that remarkable or mind-blowing. At all.

I really don’t mean to pick on him alone. There’s something that’s been bothering me about people who write and say things like, “The key to success is to make your content remarkable.” Or in Seth’s case, “Remark-Able.”

I get this. But if they don’t help people by showing them the path to being remarkable, I have to call BS on them. Every single one of them.

Here’s why. They make a lot of money for telling people really basic things. Telling someone to produce remarkable content is like saying if you want milk, you need a cow.

DUH. No kidding. You mean if I have to stand out from others, I have to create something different? WOW. Who should I make the $1000 check out to for this wonderful insight?

Come on. Don’t give people little steak medallions and charge them for a 23 oz. steak.

I’m just tired of the cute mottos, the pithy lines, the haikus posing as books and the anecdotes about, “What if there was a magenta giraffe at the zoo? You’d surely remember that among the other ordinary giraffes, wouldn’t you? Be the magenta giraffe.”

Good grief.

Yes, we have to think different to succeed. But a lot of people don’t know how. And it ticks me off when people get up in front of a stage, yell at the audience about the need to think different and then leave. Audiences with budgets and hard choices about where to spend their quality time deserve better than that.

I have gone to seminars full of wonderful speakers who have gotten me pumped about everything from metrics to culture to the future of social media (while they’re at it, if they can use a few compelling charts and graphs, I’m a sucker for those as they usually crystallize the point further).

So after reading a couple of his books, I finally had the opportunity to see Seth. I thought, “Maybe what I’m not seeing on paper will translate better in person.” I was rooting for him to be different. Come on, buddy. Don’t just give the same talk I’ve seen you give on TED. Give the people something original. Something that speaks to this year, not 2009.

Sigh. Nope. It was the same presentation was probably given a million times about thinking different.

But I STILL wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. So I read another one of his books – his latest. After all, maybe it was me. And the whole thing was basically about…thinking different and why it’s important to get off your butt to think different.

Feeling alone in the universe, I took to Amazon to read some book reviews and see if I could understand what I was missing about Seth.

And then I saw it – as it turns out, I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of people feeling like they didn’t get Seth. There was a great divide of people giving a 4-star and 5-star review to his books but then a lot of people giving 1-star and 2-star reviews. And those people on the low end were saying what I was saying – “An experiment at the reader’s expense.” “I feel like a lemming following the crowd over the cliff.” “The same message rehashed.” “A colossal waste of time for a person who has any entrepreneurial experience.” “Not worth a walk to the library to pick it up.”

Again, my point isn’t to take aim at one person in a mean-spirited way. My point is I’m troubled at the idea of a management guru who oversimplifies life and thinks his or her theory, now available on Amazon for $19.95, is the real key to success rather than a customized strategy. Sorry. It’s not that easy. Oh, it’s easy for you if you’re that guru. You talk for 45 minutes, use some cute slides, take no questions, get your check for thousands and then get whisked away to the next presentation.

But it’s not easy for the people out in the audience to naturally do what you’re saying. I completely agree that being “safe” rather than being different is far more dangerous. Yet we have to understand that change is not always impulsive in a “go, go, go!” way. It’s planned. Rather than slammed through, it has to be carefully massaged through twists and turns in a sophisticated way.

It serves as a reminder for those of us who are in Advertising, Marketing, PR, Social Media and more that, just because it’s so obvious to us that the idea we’re trying to sell is the right one, we have to do more than say, “You need to be different. You need to be remarkable. You need to stand out. Can’t you see that, dummy? Now go do that.”

That can call for things like a really good creative rationale. Speaking to how this concept resonates with the specific audience and is designed to improve upon a previously discussed set of metrics. And constantly communicating how the brand can move a little farther down the path internally too (customer service, identifying social media ambassadors, etc.).

It’s time to demand better. We need to be better guides in the new frontiers of social media. We have to go further than telling people to be different and calling it a day. We have to show them on a regular basis. Jay Baer does this. Jason Falls does this. John Jantsch does this. Michael Stelzner does this.  Mari Smith does this. HubSpot does this. And more. These kinds of people and companies are giving concrete examples of tools we can use to convey our brands in different, compelling ways. They’re not just saying, “Be remarkable.”

The “get off your butt, change and be remarkable” stuff is crucial – absolutely, positively no doubt about it. But if that’s all you suggest and you’ve got loyal followers anyway, I suppose I have to tip my hat to you as you must be some kind of marketing genius of your own brand. Like Seth.

10 things you learn about yourself after 100 blog posts

I had to take a moment to pause and reflect on the first 100 posts of this blog. When I think about what I’ve learned and how those will influence my next 100 posts, 10 things come to mind that may also be helpful for you. I wonder if you’ve felt the same way on some of these points or would add some about your own blogging experiences? If so, let me know about those in the comment section below.

1. Objective is boring.
I’ve learned that there’s little point in being objective because I figure if people want that, they’ll tune into their nightly news. I like giving credit to people who I think have done a good job and calling out people who whiff at brand development. At least I know it’s important to keep it real, no matter what. When I think about blogs that I find interesting, they inject opinion. And if they’re not taking a side, they’re asking questions that provoke thought and continued discussion. I’m striving in the next 100 posts to do more of that.

2. One post can explode the traffic.
Seriously. I awoke some days to find one post have just a little traction and other days it was through the roof. These are the posts that keep generate readership months and months after they’ve been posted, much to my amazement. The takeaway is to look for the commonalities between the posts that are really taking off. Is it because they have a certain format or subject matter or tone?

3. You do not have to post every day. Not even close. 
There’s always so much made about frequency. Yes, you have to post consistently, but post when the spirit moves you to write something meaningful, not because someone said you have to post every day. At this point, I’ve tried to say something useful at least twice a week that will benefit readers. That’s the consistency part. Beyond that, when the moment grabs me, I write a post usually in one sitting and never look back. When I’m not feeling it, I don’t force the issue.

4. Don’t try to be Hemingway with every post.
I know, I just said to write something meaningful. And I did mean that. But I sometimes found myself overanalyzing my content quality when I also had to remember to get it out there to express myself on a time-sensitive topic. Again, I think having a loose weekly deadline for yourself can give you the balance of a time boundary without rushing your content out there too prematurely (“I have to comment on that news today!”). Relax. Absorb it. Craft your take thoughtfully. Then stick to your focus of making sure you comment on it within a reasonable timeframe. If something important happens on a Monday, I try to comment on it within the week but not three weeks later when it’s old news.

5. You touch people you never thought you would. 
It’s been very cool to see business relationships and opportunities transpire in the last year as a result of this endeavor. Students, CEOs, blog communities, folks inviting me to sneak preview events and conferences and so on. Think you can get these kind of things from spending a bunch on direct mail? Yeah, right. Blogging works. But if you think you can get amazing results after your first 2-3 posts, don’t bother. Patience isn’t just a virtue. It’s mandatory.

6. Subscribers take time to accumulate.
Chris Brogan said it took him 8 years to get 100 subscribers. Knowing who he is and my admiration for him, that fact has really stuck with me and encouraged me. I guess in that context, getting about a 1/3 of that in year one ain’t too shabby. There’s definitely a lot of people visiting and reading, so I can’t complain about them not taking the subscription step too much. I’m sure there are tweaks I’ll explore (without being too gimmicky about it) but when you focus on the content that your potential subscribers want to hear about regularly, that’s far and away the most important thing.

7. E-mail still offers plenty of share-ability. 
After Facebook and Twitter, I found a lot of sharing of articles going on via e-mail. So even though e-mail may feel like a communications dinosaur, the fact is it’s not going away for a very long time. Especially among people over 30 years old.

8. Don’t sleep on StumbleUpon.
Nobody talks about this channel as much as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Google Plus. But I’m telling you, on certain days when you get lucky by your post being voted up, it’s a traffic bonanza.

9. Could that long post have been divided into a Part 1 and Part 2? Probably.
I’m wordy. Sometimes more than I’d like to be. And I think if I’d divided some posts in half, I might be at 150 posts or more by now. Not a horrible thing, but considering how much Google likes more and more pages within a site, this might be helpful to consider going forward. Plus I think people have a general threshold of wordage.

10. Offering guest posts is great for variety.
People like Melonie Boone, Rob Jager, Steve Congdon and others have contributed wonderful pieces to this blog in the last 100 posts. In fact, I’ve got a couple more in the hopper I need to post. These guest posts have given readers the perspective of people in HR, Operations, Agency New Business and more. It also hopefully helped drive some good traffic to their sites because some still get great readership, like this one from Melonie, which feels good. Plus it helps alleviate the pressure of a post that day, so that certainly doesn’t hurt. Do remember to guide your guest posters so they’re writing within your blog’s theme and audience rather than anything they feel like. If you’re interested in guest posting, hit me up.

#11 (bonus): I am already humbled by the experience.
By words of encouragement, great comments, thoughtful dialogue and actions of sharing this content with others. I hope my first 100 posts have provided you insight and I hope that my next 100 will provide even more so. Your feedback is always more than welcome to help me make this blog better all the time. As always, e-mail me at Dan@ChicagoBrander.com.

7 Social Media Resolutions for 2012

I won’t even bother with the typical exercise goals – I’ll start with the goals that are easier for me to accomplish in 2012 in the social media realm. I’ll bet you may want to take a few of these for yourself too. 

  1. Clean out the quiet people on Twitter.
    If they haven’t said anything in 21 days, they’re just listening. I respect that, but I’m here to have conversations. Quality of audience, not quantity. I would actually unfollow more than that but you have to allow that people do go on vacation for a week or two and want to completely disconnect from electronic contact during that time.
  2. Do less searching and do more Stumbling.
    StumbleUpon is a terrific resource for content ideas and inspiration. You get things within your area of interest, but you discover topics that surprise you at the same time.
  3. Focus more on the metrics that matter.
    In addition to the metrics of social media that have meaning, there are some glossy metrics that I find myself wrapped up in. The standard ones, really. I’m going to push myself harder to dig deep and not get distracted by the fluffy metrics that sound good but matter less.
  4. Watch 1 TED video per day.
    Not all from my industry either. We can spare 18 minutes to feel inspired. Pretty much all the TED videos do that for me.
  5. Look at social influence scores far less.
    I’m not terribly proud to look at my Klout, Kred, PeerIndex as much as I do. I don’t plan on dropping them yet, but I also know they aren’t why my clients make decisions on my services. And they never sum up the kind of person I am in my real world interactions. Planning on taking them with less than a grain of salt.
  6. View at least 3 SlideShare presentations per week.
    This is probably the most useful form of content I have ever gleaned insight from. I am thankful for the people who believe in sharing their knowledge on SlideShare and will try to return the favor by sharing my own.
  7. Remember that social media isn’t everything.
    It matters and it’s wonderful. I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise. But I have formed relationships this year with people in business networking settings that have proven to be abundantly fulfilling as well. Not to mention a few speaking engagements. To neglect that and be cooped up in an office online all the time would have been such a missed opportunity. So I plan on getting out there even more in 2012.

Got any you want to add? Let’s hear ‘em. I’d like to add to this list with a few ideas from you.

5 Ways To Avoid Social Media Fatigue

It’s not easy establishing our own personal brands in the world. You have to blog, tweet, connect, and like…let’s face it, it can be rather exhausting to keep up this kind of consistency. No wonder I hear the term “social media fatigue” used more often. Yet, if it’s a given we all have to build awareness of ourselves, aren’t we forgetting an opportunity right before us that might help share the burden of producing fresh content?

I’m talking about strategies to pool resources among like-minded people so you promote yourselves even farther. Here are a few great ones: 

1) Invite Them to Guest Blog
Coming up with content for a blog all by yourself is tough, no matter how many resources you have to help (thank you, though, Google Reader). So it’s a great relationship builder to invite someone you trust to provide a guest post for you. They’re flattered by it usually and it can be refreshing for your audience to hear viewpoints in a blog from a different voice outside your own. And of course, you can take a temporary break from blogging yourself.

2) Interview Them
Whether a blog, article, podcast or video, you’re enabling someone else to share their story or viewpoints by bringing them into one of the social media tools you’re using. I’d be sure to do some prep work in advance as far as ample questions to keep the conversation flowing, particularly if it’s video or audio content.

3) Build a Twitter List Around Each Other
Twitter Lists are an underutilized tool in my opinion, especially when you have potentially thousands of people to keep track of, that you’re following and following you. Build a list around certain people who have proven to be good referral sources for you so you can easily retweet their best tweets and they can hopefully do the same for you. Those retweets from the group can help get some extra mileage out of your next tweet.

4) Start A LinkedIn Group Based On Interest
Think of the common thread that runs among your group – it doesn’t even have to be strictly business-related – and start up a LinkedIn Group among yourselves. While you might have to be the designated discussion starter, if you have a lively group, these discussions can take on a life of their own. For example, a Chicago Cubs Group has a topic that’s been going strong for months now! That might be an extreme timeframe, but even if you can get the ball rolling with a compelling enough discussion topic to stir conversations for several days, the group keeps the momentum of interactivity going. All the while, who does the credit come back to for originating the discussion? That’s right, You.

5) Co-Present A Webinar or SlideShare Presentation
Why try to sell the same canned speech to the world when you can share the load in creating a new one with a related business? Both of you can then enjoy the credit for the joint presentation, wherever it would be given. If a webinar, your combined prospect audiences may be bigger than if just one of you had been presenting.

When it comes to new content, you just don’t have to always come up with one amazing topic after another by yourself. That leads to social media fatigue and eventual burnout. So join forces by using these opportunities and others like them to bring attention to both your name and someone else’s in the process. If all goes well, it’ll be both of you invited into a buyer’s office, simultaneously too.

You Are Not Your Business Card.

There’s a question we all seem to get in networking situations – “What do you do?” Invariably, we answer with“I’m a (occupation) and I work for (company).”

I started thinking about how this defines so very little about why people find our personal brands memorable. We lead with what’s on our business card. But when people talk about you to others, what will they say?

Having just finished the excellent Guy Kawasaki book, “Enchantment,” I’ve realized that likability and trust make for a more compelling position than simply relying on where you work and what you do to bowl people over. Primarily because it shares so little of you as a person.

“He’s a great accountant.”
Not bad, I suppose. But I’ve heard the beginning and end of the whole story.

“The guy oozes talent and niceness from every pore. He made the process of working with him a complete and utter joy.”
Wow. I want to know more. Why was that process so enjoyable? Can I meet him? And by the way, wouldn’t we all want to be described in this way instead?

How does one get to a description like the second option?

A good place to start is to de-business card yourself. I don’t mean actually trashing them all but mentally learning to strip away the contents. All of it. The company. The title. The e-mail address. The phone number. Even the occupation itself.

Imagine all that going out the window. What’s left?

If you find yourself grasping for an answer, don’t feel bad. The first time I thought about this, I called myself a “content marketer” or “brand strategist.” But I knew I was so much more than that. So I became excited by the challenge of conveying myself as a brand and who I envisioned myself to be. This led me to consider the best places to express this personal brand:

Some good places to start:

Your LinkedIn Profile
So many people consider just the summary and work history of LinkedIn. But think about the applications you can add that convey other factors, like what you’re reading (Amazon Reading List), what your interests are (don’t just list the professional ones) and Groups (boards, country clubs, etc.). Assuming you’ve had positive connections, those Recommendations will inevitably help people see the side of you that’s a relationship builder – so don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and clients for them!

Blog
I can’t say enough about how a blog will help you develop an original voice that’s helpful, humble and eager to share content. Building credibility is important, but the reward isn’t in trying to be an all-knowing authority that never gets a response. The reward is in inspiring conversation that grows beyond a post and takes on a life of its own (all the while, the positive attributes of bringing a “community” together are credited back to you).

Twitter
People are feeling you out to see if you’re someone worth following. Here lies an opportunity to prove your thought leadership and show your passions on a topic unique to your industry that extends far outside just “what you do” and “who you work for.” One tool I like to use to add depth and context to my tweets is PeerIndex. The broader my PeerIndex “topic fingerprint,” the more it overlaps nearby related topics and the more I tend to garner interest. For example, if you tweet about a new piece of technology, you may expand your authority by conveying how that technology has implications for media or science rather than commenting purely on whether or not you like it.

YouTube
It takes some practice to get comfortable in front of the camera, but if you do, it can go a long way toward someone visualizing taking a meeting with you. As you do engage in YouTube videos, however, I encourage you not to picture yourself merely as “VP of…” Again, think above and beyond your current status and instead picture yourself as a leader, resource, a helpful ally in a peer’s search to find answers. Think of how transparent you can be on a topic that stirs your passions. Then keep a schedule of when you can consistently record and upload videos.

We’d all like to think we’ll be at an employer that makes us happy for quite some time – and perhaps we will be. But even so, developing your personal brand beyond what your business card says you are enables you to define yourself as something so much more than a title and occupation – a likable, trustworthy personal brand that people can’t get enough of.

(This post originally ran in PersonalBrandingBlog.com)