Blog Archives

How to get over losing Picnik

I had a really hard time with losing Picnik, the photo editing application that comes with a Flickr membership.  I had even paid for the premium service.  I had a lot of fun with it.  I made a little money, too.

Even more importantly, it allowed me to do a lot of Photoshop-like things without having to learn Photoshop.  Which I am going to to do one of these days.  Just not today.  Okay, maybe not ever.  Not when I have a a Photoshop genius as a business partner.

But, I am not going to ask David to Photoshop every image I feel like playing with.

That’s what was so great about Picnik.  It was so easy a non-designer could use it.  Until Google bought it.  And killed it.  They do that sometimes.  Makes me crazy.

Flickr replaced Picnik with Aviary. Aviary doesn’t always load.  That never happened with Picnik.  So in my experience, 75% of the time I want to edit a photo in Flickr with Aviary, I can just forget it.  And when it does load, it has no where as many cool features as Flickr once did.  It’s just not worth it.

Google tries to appease us all about the murder of Picnik with a Google + application called — oh, I don’t care what it’s called.  I tried it and it stinks.  And I don’t want to upload client pictures I’m “polishing” to my Google + profile.   Some photo edits I do are private!

So I was a sulky camper until I discovered — ta dah! — PicMonkey.  PicMonkey is free to use.  You don’t have to even register.

Let me say that again, because even I did not believe it first.  You do not have to register to use this app.  Unbelievable.

PicMonkey has a lot of the features Picnik had, including some I used to have to pay for.  Like cosmetic features!  I love adding highlights to hair, whitening teeth, adding a little lip tint or blush.   And there some new features, like fun overlays, to explore.  I loves it.  I do!

Check out PicMonkey!  It’s easy and fun to use, and is a great way to crop, embellish, and alter your favorite photographs.

College students: get the technical skills you need now to work in PR later

Photo Credit: JISC InfoNet, University of Cumbria

Considering a career in public relations?  Here are the technical skills you need to work on now to get a great internship and job later.  If you don’t yet have these skills, make it a priority to acquire them during breaks and summer vacation.

A note: group skills classes tend to be fast-paced, superficial, and expensive, and you may not learn as well or as much as on your own.  Don’t waste your academic credits on these.  Try Lynda.com or self-study, instead.  Or ask a friend to help you learn.

Learn how to type.  With TWO hands, not two fingers.  Typing is so important, you should pay for and take a course, if needed (but not at college; that’s too expensive).  Learning how to type requires a great deal of practice at first, but once you learn, it’s like riding a bike.

Don’t underestimate this!  Typing is one of the most important skills you can have.  It will help you now, in school, and later on the job.  Public relations professionals spend a lot of time on the computer.  If you can’t type at least 80 wpm by the time you graduate, you may get left behind in the dust at work.

Acquire technical skills.  You can learn these on your own, on the job, with a friend, or with at home tutorials, like those offered by Lynda.com and Constant Contact.  Skills like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, PhotoShop, InDesign, blogging, video editing, and email marketing are in high demand and will give you an edge in marketplace.

Learn how to use a digital camera and video camera, and become expert at uploading edited online content.

Sharpen your social media skills.  Start blogging, now (I recommend WordPress.com)  Also be sure you have a fully fledged and professional appearing LinkedIn account, Facebook profile, Twitter profile, Flickr account, and YouTube channel using your name as the username, and update them regularly.

A fun, creative, and free photo project: marketing mosaic

Our photo mosaic includes images of logos, staff, work examples, and clients

I am a big fan of Big Huge Labs, which offers a number of free ways to use your online photos and create photo products. These are creative and affordable tools for marketing your business or nonprofit organization.

In your downtime, you might try making a photo mosaic of your business.  It’s free and easy to make, and you can use it in a variety of ways.

A mosaic is a quick way to capture and convey the essence of your business and what makes it unique, and it’s a great way to feel good about your accomplishments.

Collect Those Photos!

Here are some examples of images could you include in your mosaic (keep in mind: each image will be cropped square) —

  • Company logo (use the square version you use for social media)
  • Company logos of your client
  • Images of staff (working, at events)
  • Images of clients and customers
  • Examples of your products, or service in action

You should regularly be snapping, collecting, and uploading these images online, by the way, so if you find you don’t have enough to make a mosaic, that is your photography project for the summer!

As you select images, they will be automatically placed into the mosaic, in the order you designate.  It takes some tweaking, as you go, to make a visually pleasing image (see my example, below).  You are basically creating a photographic quilt of your business.  Or, alternatively, a photo strip.

Like all creative acts, making a photo mosaic is relaxing and revelatory.  The very act of selecting and arranging these photos about your business is a good exercise in discovering and affirming what is important to you, what you value, and what you offer.

How To Market With Mosaics

Mosaics aren’t just for fun; they also have practical applications.  Here are some ways you can use the mosaic —

  • Use a long strip as a blog header or email newsletter header
  • Insert a square mosaic into the cover sleeve of a customizable binder or appointment calendar
  • Tack one up on your bulletin board (or employee bulletin board) to make you feel good every time you look at it
  • Decorate your website or blog posts
  • Use it as a background for an exhibit display or banner at a conference
  • Frame it and display it on your reception desk, in your restaurant, etc.
  • Print on letterhead, postcards, thank you cards, or notecards
  • Jazz up your annual report cover
  • Upload as a Twitter background
  • Include it on your Facebook Page landing “welcome” page
  • Make a bunch of strips and use them in brochures

All you need to get started is this Big Huge Labs link, a computer and color printer, paper, and some online photos.  You can upload your photos from your computer, or directly from your Flickr account.   If you don’t already have a Flickr account, now is a good time to start.

Ask us for help, and have fun with your photo mosaic!  I would love to see your results 🙂

12 Days of Marketing Communications. Day 11: Social Media Community Management

So, this one is a little tougher to talk about, because I don’t want to reveal the clients for whom we handle ghost-tweeting, ghost-blogging, or Facebook Page updating.

The fact is, sometimes we manage social media outreach for our clients.  There are times when clients get swamped, and they just can’t keep up with monitoring, updating, and responding to their communities.  And not every business owner is a born blogger.

You will hear a lot of social media pundits opine about authenticity and the taboos associated with social media content management.  Don’t be too intimidated by these opinions.  When you have a good relationship with a consultant who is very familiar with your business or organizational goals, you may comfortably outsource some of your company’s social media outreach to that person without fear.  Promoting good customer relationships is part of marketing and public relations, after all.

What is most important for your brand is that these platforms are updated and monitored, consistently, on a daily basis, by a savvy professional who possesses experience, creativity, perspective, understanding, and a strategic outlook.  Learn more about Fletcher Prince’s creative and affordable content management services.

12 Days of Marketing Communications. Day 7: Flickr and Images

The least under-utilized marketing tool, but perhaps the most useful, are images.  Do you know that when I survey the 15+ Facebook Pages I administer or help administer, images are what get the highest impressions?

Online images can help you achieve higher search engine results, and when placed on a social sharing site such as Flickr, can be linked with search engine-friendly text to help tell your company’s story.

And this year, Twitter enabled a feature that allows images to be viewed directly in the user’s Twitter dashboard, as long as you upload links from Flickr or another reputable photo sharing site.  So any click-anxiety has been eradicated.

Yet, so many companies and organizations — and particularly communicators, agencies, and communications organizations! — simply do not upload sufficient numbers of photos to engage their followers and viewers.

At Fletcher Prince, we know how to get marketing results from online images.  We obtained a number of media placements for three of our clients, simply by emailing targeted media with a few images.  The photographs we took and uploaded to Facebook Pages in 2010 have been viewed by thousands of people.

My recommendations for 2011 are

  • Audit your online image inventory.  Google yourself, your company name, and your brand names, and check under “Images.”  What do you see?  What is missing?
  • Ask Fletcher Prince to help you set up a branded Flickr page.  We also offer affordable photography services.
  • Carry a digital camera with you everywhere you go, but especially to each industry-related event.
  • Get in the habit of regularly uploading images to your Facebook Page and Flickr account.
  • Start using more images in your blog posts, Twitter updates, press releases, email communications, videos, and direct mail.

How to manage online review sites associated with your business

Good online reviews can make your business, and bad online reviews can break your business.

If you listen to anything I’ve told you about marketing your small business, let it be this: proactively take control of your online reputation, as much as you can, now.  Sometimes there is damage that cannot be undone later.

We all know if you are in business for any length of time, someone you deal with is going to be unhappy.  The amount of damage to your reputation that can result from that unhappy customer (or ex-employee or competitor) depends on how much disaster mitigation you put into place before the negative review is posted online.  And that requires some planning (which is where I often come in).  Here are four ways you can mitigate for the worst:

  1. Publish as much content online for your business as possible. This should be an ongoing effort. Create a Facebook Page for your business, a Twitter account, Flickr photos, and a YouTube channel.  Create a LinkedIn Business Listing and claim all your listings online.  If you get a negative review — and that’s all that people see about your business when they search for you online — you’re in a bad place.  But if you’ve taken the time to deliberately market your business: collecting and publishing testimonials, publicizing good reviews when you receive them, uploading images and video, writing a blog or managing a Facebook Page — then you are in a much better position.  Then, the negative review may not be the first thing a person sees in the search engine results, and the good content will balance the bad.
  2. Don’t let your customers leave unhappy; fix the problem now. Constantly check in with your customers before they have the chance to write a bad review.  Don’t wait until your guests check out of your hotel or bed and breakfast to ask them how things are going — call the first night and make sure everything is to their satisfaction.  If you manage a restaurant, make sure you walk the floor and ask each and every customer, every day, every meal, if everything is completely to their satisfaction.  And if it isn’t — do anything you have to do right then to make it right.
  3. Make it easy for people to review your business online. You can prevent fallout from negative online reviews by encouraging online reviews.  To do this, post links to review sites on your website, blog, and Facebook Page for example, so people can easily find your listings and read other reviews.  Most online reviews tend to be positive; Yelp claims that 85% of their reviews are 3 stars or higher.
  4. Develop a way to keep track of your customers so you can promptly respond to complaints posted online, whenever possible. For example, if someone makes an appointment for service, you probably have their phone number.  If you then discover that the person has written a negative review, you can contact that person to learn more.  In some cases, the person may go back and revise their review! It is worth almost any effort to turn that situation around. Monitoring your reviews are key; you have to have business listings with review sites and Google Alerts in place to quickly respond.

Sure, there are some customers that will never be satisfied, but heed my advice: take your online reviews seriously.  Negative reviews — approached the right way — can be a positive thing for your business!  They are not a forum for excuses, but they can be an opportunity to tell your story, and to turn things around, even get advice.  They can help you identify trouble spots and service issues that can keep your business from getting more negative reviews.

Here are five important online review sites, plus strategies for dealing with them.

Yelp Reviews

Last month — in one month — 38 million people visited Yelp, which features reviews about  everything from dentists to realtors to restaurants (see chart for breakdown).  If you do not have a business listing on Yelp, you can create one. If you do have one, you should go ahead and claim it (it is free), and upload as much content as you can: upload photos, logos,  special offers  You can also monitor activity on your listing — all for free.  You have the option of responding publicly or privately (or both) to reviews on Yelp, and Yelp provides excellent guidelines for handling both negative and positive feedback from reviewers that I recommend all business owners read.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor attracts 35 million visitors monthly who read the restaurant, hotel, and attraction reviews.  If you have a restaurant, hotel, or attraction, you MUST claim your TripAdvisor business listing and take full advantage of the free features it offers business owners, including the opportunity to respond publicly to positive and negative reviews.  You can also upload images and video on TripAdvisor.  Think about that: you could upload video testimonials.  TripAdvisor is tremendously influential and provides a way for you to enter the conversation.

Google Maps/Google Places

You may have a business listing for Google Maps or Google Places.  If you do, you should claim it (it is free).  If you don’t, you can create one for free, and I recommend that you do.  Unless you are a very small business, chances are one will be created for you eventually, if you do not, and this is a listing over which you want to have as much control as possible.

The bad news is you have virtually no control over the the reviews posted on your Google listing, which includes both reviews posted directly on the site, as well as reviews found on TripAdvisor and elsewhere online.  It’s hard to tell who the reviewers are, and you cannot respond to the reviews, publicly or privately, and there is no real way to remove a listing, unless it was fraudulently put up.

Yahoo Local Reviews

Yahoo Local doesn’t wield the power of Yelp — it appears to receive about 11 million views per month — but it does offer free business listings.  It is possible to comment on the reviews that are posted there.

Facebook Page Reviews

If you have a Facebook Page, you have the option of putting a Reviews tab on your Page.  Should you do this?  In my opinion, no.  Facebook Page reviews are not that searchable.  I think you should have a tab for reviews on your page, but you can create that manually with FBML and add your reviews, list style.  Then you can add a link to Yelp or TripAdvisor to encourage your Facebook Page users to visit those sites and review your business.

Should you pay for online reviews?

I hope you know that the answer is no.  You should not hire someone to do this, or ask a friend or family member (unless they identify themselves as such) to write online reviews for you, or reward people for good reviews.  People see right through that.  Good thing, too, as ex-employees and competitors are not above writing fake negative reviews to sink a business.  Sylvia Rector, a restaurant critic, has identified several ways that she and other savvy review readers may suspect the veracity of a review:

  • The reviewer only has one review.
  • Several reviews are written in one day.
  • There are few specific details but extreme opinions.

Has your business been reviewed online?  How did you respond?  What are  your plans for managing online reviews?

6 ways to build online credibility for your business

Why you need to earn the trust of your customers or constituents

We live in jaded times.  People have become cynical because of the companies and leaders who have lied to them.  Advertising is not powerless, but it no longer holds the influential sway it once did.  You have to build your case for everything you sell, with complete transparency and with reliance on third-party endorsements.  During tough economic times, people are highly discerning about how they spend their money, and will gravitate to brands, products, and organizations they find trustworthy.  Having a robust online presence — with images and video they can see, and content and testimonials they can read — is one of the best ways you can earn this trust.

Take steps to build the search engine optimization of your website

As people search for your company online — or keywords associated with your business — they will tend to select the top ranking search engine results, as well as companies and organizations that have many search engine results.  Market researchers have also established that people place more confidence in companies that have established a social media presence, including Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles and accounts.  Therefore, taking steps to improve your company’s SEO is another important way to build trust in your business.

When you look like you care and are passionate about your business, people will begin to believe in you.  Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to build online credibility.  But it will take planning and effort, and if you are behind the eight ball now, you do need to get started.  Here are some sure-fire ways to build credibility in your brand online.

1. Take lots of photographs and post them frequently. You know how they call Missouri the “Show Me” state?  In this economy, every state is the “Show Me” state.  Your inventory of online photographs must include photos of every staff member, product, and service you offer.  I still see websites without photographs.  They will not fly.  People need to see it to believe it.  Post your photographs on Facebook, Google Profiles and Maps, Yelp, and Flickr.

2. Assertively collect testimonials and reviews: Credibility in this economy is everything, and there are few more effective ways to build trust in your company than with testimonials.  You need to ask your past and existing clients, customers, and vendors to post testimonials for you on LinkedIn.

What lends even more credibility power to the testimonials you re-publish on your website?  Photographs and real names of your endorsers and reviewers.  Don’t forget, you can also collect video testimonials.

Reviews are different.  You really should not solicit online reviews, such as those found on Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor.  It violates the terms of service for these platforms. However, you can encourage people to post reviews by establishing a business listing on review sites, including photographs, URL, and contact information.  And once you have reviews, you can link to those reviews, including the review icon, which may encourage even more reviews.  And you could always ask your repeat customers and regulars for endorsements or video testimonials.

3. Produce YouTube video: 25% of search is processing through YouTube.  In search results, people tend to click on links with videos more than those without –  even if the video link is ranked lower.  And there is no better way to tell your story, or earn trust with your target audience, than to make your case “in person’’  Video is no longer an option; it is a requirement if you are serious about marketing your business or nonprofit organization.

Are you worried about production quality? You should strive for a decent level of production quality, yes.  You should use a great camera, and proper lighting and microphones.  Or, hire a company like Fletcher Prince to produce affordable videos for you.  But don’t over think it and delay.  Marketers are discovering that consumers actually tend to place slightly more trust in brands that have videos that appear to be inexpensively produced.  That is one reason why major brands who can afford to create the best quality video (such as Doritos and Heinz) have relied on consumer productions to promote their brands.  It may not pay to be too slick these days.

4. Start blogging: Search engines love blogs; they’re great for driving traffic back to your site.  But there are other benefits. Blogs are an effective way to present your subject matter expertise, which builds trust in you and your business.  They can be easily linked, shared, and fed into your social media platforms, and other people can easily share your  posts on their sites.  Not every blogger is lucky to receive many useful comments, but when you do receive feedback, you may find it useful.

One blogging bonus — that you don’t often hear people talking about — is that the action of formulating and shaping your thoughts into text and images, and the discipline of routinely blogging about your services, industry, and issues, will help you constantly examine and refine how you present yourself and your business.  It’s just a great mental workout, which is why I recommend it for everyone. My experience with blogging is that it has helped me become more articulate and confident in client meetings, and as a speaker.

5. Comment on popular blogs and online news articles: Search engines rely on the number of inbound links you have to your website to determine if your web site is popular and reputable enough to bump to the top pages of search engine rankings.  There is are two very easy and legitimate ways to create inbound links.  First, link to your web site from all of your social media, YouTube videos, blog posts.  Secondly, whenever you comment on blogs and online news articles about your industry, you usually have to add your name, email, and website URL.  Each of those comments will link back to your site as an inbound link, and will boost your rankings.  So, it pays to express your opinion, especially on popular blogs.

Don’t believe it?  I just checked my Google search engine results for blog posts for the name of my company.  Between my blog posts and comments, there are more than 76,000 search engine results. Do you think I could have bought that kind of exposure?  I couldn’t.  It’s all from blogging and commenting.

6. Update your web site. Your web site will usually be in the top search engine results for your company name, and if you’re fortunate and strategic, for your industry.  More than 80% of web users click on the first listings.  The kinds of changes you should be making now?  Featuring your social media links, revising copy to contain keywords (words and phrases an organization’s customers are searching for online), and adding video, photographs, and PDF files.

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking, “Sure, Mary, but easier said than done,” then you need to talk to me about creating an actionable online marketing plan for your business.  That IS what we do at Fletcher Prince.  You can trust that we know what we’re talking about, because we have 22 recommendations on LinkedIn and 2 video testimonials on YouTube.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about!  If we can do it, so can you.  Visit http://www.fletcherprince.com to learn more.

Questions?  Comments?

What is your experience with earning the trust of your customers?  How do you think the economy affects people’s ability to develop trust in your brand?  Feel free to share your insights in the comments (remember how good it will be for your SEO!)

Marketing with Photographs and Online Images

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words…

And an online image may be worth 100 more visitors to your web site!  There are several other reasons why you may want to keep a camera handy.

Fletcher Prince Buttons

These artfully arranged buttons communicate much about the Fletcher Prince brand

Photos have tremendous communications power. People respond to photos.   They increase the appeal and understanding of your written text.  They allow you to show off your products and accomplishments.  They also build trust in you as a professional and in your organization, by humanizing your company. You can use photos in so many ways — in brochures, newsletters, PowerPoint presentations, and as cutaways in videos.

Sharing photos you take is a great way to foster good will for you and your company. Clients, reporters, bloggers, and membership associations are often quite grateful to have photos they can use in their own articles and newsletters.

Online photos can be very good for your SEO. When you take time to title, describe, and tag photos, all those text terms are searchable by Google.  They will show up in Google under “Images” in searches for your company (or for your name, for example).  And when you link photos you place online to a landing page, these online images can drive traffic to your web site or blog.

You don’t have to be an expert photographer to benefit from using photos to market your company.   The important thing is to take lots of photos and to have fun with it.  Here are some tips for how you can make your photos work for you — and your company or nonprofit organization.

What You Need to Get Started

You’ll need three things to get started with using online photos to market your company or organization.

  1. A digital camera.  I have a Canon Power Shot SD780. It is palm-size, easy to use, and takes great photographs and HD video.
  2. A computer with an Internet connection.  Any updated computer will do; I love my Apple iMac.
  3. A photo sharing site, such as Flickr.  Photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Picasa make it possible to edit photos, and share them on social networking sites and elsewhere online.

Some Ideas for Taking Photos for Your Business or Nonprofit Organization

I believe in taking lots of photos of your staff, clients, and products.  Keep a camera with you, every day, at all times, so you never miss a photo opportunity.  But plan in advance to take photographs, such as these

  • Photos of yourself and staff: head shots, group shots, candid shots of them at work.  Let everyone know that you may be taking photos at one staff meeting, for example.
  • Don’t forget to take photos of interns, volunteers, students, and vendors.
  • Take photos of your clients!  And photos of your employees working with clients.
  • Do you sponsor organizations?  Does your company volunteer in the community?  Take photos.
  • Pose people outside the company, or enjoying the company’s products or services.
  • Of course, you’ll want to take photos of your products or services, or in the case of a nonprofit, photos of people benefiting from the services.
  • Exterior of your office or headquarters; company sign.
  • Take photos of your marketing collateral, or upload jpgs, such as your brochures, promotional items, postcards, and other items.  Take pictures of your exhibit displays or sponsor tables.
  • Your logos, in a variety of sizes and iterations
  • Special events, conventions, galas, luncheons, networking events, and award ceremonies.  Is someone from your company making a presentation?  Take photos.

Making the Photos Interesting to View

You will want to take some standard shots, such as head shots and group shots.  But you can also branch out and take some interesting shots that are in line with your brand and corporate culture.  Is your brand fun and informal?  One of my favorite shots of my interns was with all five of them sitting together on a sofa.  Maybe your company is proud of its environmental record.  So, an outdoors shot would be appropriate.

Using Landmarks in Your Photos

If your company is like most small businesses or nonprofit organizations, you probably market within a fixed geographic area, and you may have a lot of pride about where you do business, as do your clients.  Use that element in your marketing!  Do you live in an area with some important landmarks?  For example, if you live in the Washington, DC area, posing some of y

Interns in the Yard

We wanted a different look for the Fletcher Prince Interns

our executives or grouping your employees with the U.S. Capitol in the background and other DC landmarks would make a great photo.  If you were in New York, you could pick other iconic settings.  Try posing in front of historical landmarks or other places that your clients would recognize.

David Hyson

David Hyson "aerial view"

Some of the most interesting shots are those where the person is not looking at the camera.  I took a photo of a group of young interns and staggered them apart, then had some of them look to the left and some of them to the right.  The effect was fun and edgy, and they really liked it.

Different camera angles, such as profile and three quarter views, can be flattering and can lend all kinds of mystery to an image (what is the person looking at?).   Try shooting down on your subject (you can even stand on a chair).   It adds a different kind of energy.

Where to Post Your Photos Online

Using Flickr, you can download smaller versions of your photos to upload to various sites (be sure to rename the file name from a number to a literal term with keywords).  Small and medium size photos work great for online purposes. Save the high-resolution versions for print work, such as brochures and post cards.

Here are some places where you can post your photos online.  In many cases, you can adjust the settings so if the viewer clicks on the photo, it will go to your web site, blog, or other landing page you designate (e.g., http://www….)

  • Flickr site.  Be sure to tag and describe each photo.
  • Blog.  Each blog entry you write should have at least one image.
  • Web site.  Each page should have a photo, don’t you agree? From your online newsroom or About Us web page, be sure that you mention that you have high-resolution photos of staff and link to your Flickr set online.
  • On your Facebook Page.
  • On your Google Profile.
  • On your Yelp Business Profile.
  • On your Google Maps account.
  • And so many more…

Here’s a tip for online photos you put on your web site: if the person in the photo is looking in one direction (e.g., not directly at the camera), position the photo (flip it, if you have to) so that person appears to be looking at the text or headline (or call  to action) you want the viewer to read.  People naturally follow the gaze of other people, even in photos, so you can use this human tendency to increase communication of your message.  And always try to caption your photos, when you can.

Fletcher Prince Can Help You with Your “Photo Marketing”

Need some help creating your Flickr account?  I can help you create a profile, and upload, categorize, describe and tag photos for optimal search engine results.  Please contact me if I can assist you.

Did You Like This Article?

If you found this article helpful, I would LOVE it if you would leave a comment for me!  Thanks, and happy photographing!

Learn More in this Video

How to use Flickr to enhance your online image

In this six-minute video, Mary Fletcher Jones shares tips for promoting your business or nonprofit organization with online images, such as photographs and logos. Mary explains how to use photo sharing social media sites, such as Flickr.

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