Thoughts on Leadership: Getting Back to Basics

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Irvine at the HSF Affiliates headquarters with a series of meetings and one very special meeting with Gary Vaynerchuk.


With @hsfchrisstuart and my new pal @garyvee in SoCal earlier this week. Pretty awesome day!

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Then it was on to Las Vegas for Mike Ferry’s 2017 Superstar Retreat, a four-day intensive from one of our industry’s finest leaders all about strengthening your mindset, building your skills, increasing your productivity and catapulting profits to the highest level possible—in other words, the basics.

This year marks my 27th appearance at the event and I’m honored to say Mike Ferry hasn’t only been a longtime inspiration in my career but also a cherished mentor for more than three decades. Mike has been in the real estate business—on both the sales and management side—for 40+ years. In this time, he’s earned himself an unparalleled reputation for outstanding professional accomplishment that derives from decades of hard work, dedication, passion and an unyielding commitment to achieving his goals and helping clients achieve theirs, too.


I attended my first Superstar Retreat in 1986 and the entire experience had a profound impact on me. While the conference covers many of the same topics year after year, there’s a reason for this repetition. In an industry characterized, and in many ways propelled, by the technological winds of change, the core tenets of real estate will forever remain unchanged. It’s this “Back to Basics” philosophy I’m reminded of each time I watch Mike Ferry take to the stage, the very picture of motivation and success. It seems the theme of each retreat goes something like: In order to remain relevant, we must embrace the new but remember it’s imperative to retain the fixed fundamentals that are time-tested, industry truths. Here are some of those “basics” I jotted down as I sat in the Superstar Retreat sessions this week:

  1. Work ethic. Mike Ferry, at 72 years old, still works as hard as he did 30 years ago. It’s an inspiring thing to behold someone who has such a strong commitment to work, just like our own Warren Buffett. Mike said your competition may have more innate talent than you do but tell yourself they’ll never outwork you and keep on pushing!
  2. The benefits of challenge. As an agent, going to a Superstar Retreat wiped out any feelings I had that were close to complacency or any ideas I had that I’d done really well for myself in real estate that year. There were so many people sitting in the room who had done so many more transactions than me, whose business was even better than mine. This goes back to the idea of humility and a concept I feel is so important, it gets a permanent spot on my email signature: “Don’t join an easy crowd … where the expectations are low … or where they don’t care … the problem with that is you won’t grow … go where the expectations are high … go where you’re challenged to study, to read, to change, to develop, to learn the next skill. Because it’s the challenge that creates the muscle. The mental muscle, the vocal muscle, the actual physical muscle to become better, stronger, wiser, more unique!”
  3. The worth of reunions. It’s funny how we can be so connected to friends and colleagues in this digital, social age and yet, so very disconnected at the same time. It’s nice to catch up with old friends via Facebook status updates but it’s even better to have a person-to-person interaction with them. At this Superstar Retreat, I was able to reunite with so many longstanding friends, deepening our connection and sense of trust in each other in a way no text on a screen could ever create. Tim Rohan, it was great catching up with you on Wednesday night and congratulations on being an MFO coach!


Just as we have spring training in baseball and training camp in football, we must prepare for a successful season ahead and to do that we must remember the basics, the elemental insights that have been proven over decades and centuries to create and foster success. They’re basic because they won’t fail you and they’re basic because the truth is, as Mike Ferry reminded me at this Superstar Retreat, they really work.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts On Leadership: Innovation in Austin

By Gino Blefari

This week’s travels found me in Austin, Texas … and what a place to be! Austin is a booming city overflowing with rich culture, a lively entertainment scene and incredible food. It’s no wonder it boasts one of the highest growth in the country in terms of population and jobs. In fact, according to the latest estimates, Austin adds 159 people per day to its metro-area population.

After spending several days in Austin, I can see why so many people are eager to move there. Fun fact: Whole Foods’ flagship location can be found in downtown Austin and it’s an 8,000-square-foot market unlike any other. The Whole Foods Market Inc. worldwide headquarters is also located in Austin, which practically ensures city dwellers there remain focused on healthy eating. As I always say, a large part of effective leadership is maintaining your energy, which comes from regular exercise and a mindful, nutritious diet. Relatedly, Austin was named by CNBC as a top city for launching a tech startup and has a thriving entrepreneurial community of small businesses and innovative leaders.

Speaking of innovative leaders, I was in town to meet with the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR), an impressive organization led with distinctive forward-mindedness by CEO Paul Hilgers. He’s a great guy and he’s done a super job transforming the association into a modern example of what a real estate advocacy group should be. Even the office, with its sleek, mirrored windows and tall frame, looks the very progressive picture of the members contained inside. And the interior is just as striking with cutting-edge design and panoramic views of the city.

I was honored to deliver my seven principles for success to the team and even shot a few videos talking about real estate and leadership, which are coming out soon. Paul mentioned he was confident his board members and leadership would now be able to achieve their professional goals faster by following these principles, which is the ultimate goal!

While at ABoR, I was joined by my friend, Johnnie Johnson, former All Pro for the Los Angeles Rams and CEO of World Class Coaches, who spoke to a crowd eager to hear from the legendary Texas Longhorn. Johnnie’s company, World Class Coaches, facilitates the Moving Families Initiative, which is fitting to discuss in a place experiencing such rapid growth.

Like the city of Austin itself and the contemporary leadership style of ABoR, Moving Families Initiative is a pioneering program. It’s an international plan focused on serving, protecting, and meeting the needs of parents moving or relocating with children, ages 19 and younger, including the teachers and coaches who work with their children.

So, what’s the message? During my trip to Austin, innovation was all around. From the towering Whole Foods to the incredible ABoR board and staff leadership to the ideas Johnnie detailed about how Moving Families Initiative can help Austin real estate professionals better assistant buyers and sellers. As a leader, it’s important to surround yourself with inspiring people, places and things. Because while it’s true you can always find inspiration within yourself, it’s your surroundings and who you surround yourself with that might just provide the extra motivation, creativity and encouragement you need to achieve your goals.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Real Living Network Brokerages Among Top Firms For Services Excellence

Companies Honored with QE Award for Verified “Extraordinary Customer Service”- an Industry First

America’s Top 35 real estate firms based on service excellence are being honored for exceptional customer service satisfaction with an industry first – a QE Award (pronounced “Quie”) – “that measures and independently verifies excellence in the delivery of the highest levels of customer satisfaction and service quality in real estate in North America,” according to Quality Service Certification, Inc. (QSC), creators of the award.

“They’re not just raising the bar for customer service; they’ve committed to a whole new standard knowing consumers are tired of seeing meaningless perfect reviews where every agent has a 5-star rating.”

The 2017 QE Award recognizes the Top 5 Large Companies, the Top 10 Midsize Companies and the Top 20 Small Companies, spanning 22 states, from Florida to California and Minnesota to Texas, and includes some of the most respected independent and well-known national and regional brand names.

“There is no greater honor than earning the highest ratings from our customers for the hard work of our agents touching all the bases and bringing home a fantastic service experience for every one of our clients,” said Mike Pappas, President and CEO at Keyes Real Estate in South Florida. “That’s why winning a QE Award from Quality Service Certification is the best award any brokerage in real estate can receive,” he added.

The 2017 QE Award is based upon the results of an independent survey limited solely to buyers and sellers who were in a real estate transaction that actually closed with participating real estate companies from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.  Quality Service Certification, Inc. and Leading Research Corporation, San Juan Capistrano, CA administer the survey process to ensure that every past customer is surveyed, preventing agents or the company from interference or influence in any way.

The 2017 QE Award winners for the Top 5 Large Companies include:

  • Charles Rutenberg Realty, Greater Chicagoland Area
  • Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties, Northern California and Nevada
  • Harry Norman, REALTORS®, Atlanta, GA
  • The Keyes Company, South Florida
  • RE/MAX of Reading, Reading, PA

The 2017 QE Award winners for the Top 10 Medium Companies include:

  • Real Living Messina & Associates, Inc., Duluth, MN
  • Kinlin Grover Real Estate, Osterville, MA
  • RE/MAX Estate Properties, Los Angeles, CA
  • Real Living Kee Realty, Rochester/Clinton MI
  • Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Tomie Raines REALTORS®, East Lansing, MI
  • Real Living Realty Professionals, MA
  • CJR Carol Jones Realtors, A Berkshire Hathaway Affiliate, Springfield, MO
  • RE/MAX Allegiance, Alexandria, VA
  • Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty, Burlington, VT
  • Keller Williams Classic Realty, Coon Rapids, MN

The 2017 QE Award winners for the Top 20 Small Companies include:

  • The Berkshire Group, REALTORS®, Denver, CO
  • Home Realty, Inc., Owensboro, KY
  • Real Living Property For You, Peoria, AZ
  • Real Living 1st Choice Realty, Coral Springs, FL
  • Real Living Capital City Realty, Atlanta, GA
  • BOWES Real Estate Real Living, Arlington, MA
  • Real Living CO Properties, Denver, CO
  • Real Living Palm West Home Realty, Inc., Palm Coast, FL
  • RE/MAX Select, Oviedo, FL
  • Real Living Wareck D’Ostilio, New Haven, CT
  • Real Living Northwest REALTORS, Bothell, WA
  • MikkiMoves Real Estate, Inc., Eureka, CA
  • Real Living Cypress Realty, Inc., Fort Myers, FL
  • Real Living Volpini Realty Group, Youngstown, OH
  • Real Living Karapasha Realty, Katy, TX
  • ERA Martin Associates, Salisbury, MD
  • Real Living Realty Group, Franklin, MA
  • Golden Real Estate, Inc., Golden, CO
  • Real Living Gateway Realtors, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
  • First Colorado Realty, Inc., Estes Park, CO

“At a time when consumer are seeking transparency, greater accountability, and trusted information to help them make better, more informed decisions and choices, hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of their service professionals are now electing to participate in service assessment and feedback following every transaction, which is setting a new and better standard for excellence,” said Kevin C. Romito, President, Quality Service Certification, Inc.

“They’re not just raising the bar for customer service; they’ve committed to a whole new standard knowing consumers are tired of seeing meaningless perfect reviews where every agent has a 5-star rating,” Romito adds. “We believe that in a consumer-centric world the higher standard for gauging excellence in professional services should authentically measure how well each customer is served not just how much business is done.”

Larry Romito, Chairman, CEO sees the new QE Award as motivation for change. “We hope the prestigious recognition of the QE Award for measurable excellence in service and satisfaction will launch a viral movement toward better customer service, transparency and accountability, where every real past customer is surveyed and all surveys are unedited.  That’s what QSC and the new QE Award are all about. A complete, reliable picture of customer feedback, from real past customers on issues important to prospective consumers,” he added.

Romito notes that the QE Award is based upon the aggregated overall Customer Satisfaction Rating of all returned surveys of real customers where every past customer has been surveyed without selectivity, editing, deletion, cleansing or manipulation. “No other system exists in the real estate industry that can legitimately make that claim,” he said, noting that “accurate, reliable, independently validated survey results of individual agents” can be accessed by visiting RatedAgent.com.

Quality Service Certification, Inc. created the QE Award to foster, encourage and recognize the highest levels of service quality and customer satisfaction.  QSC with its sister company Leading Research Corporation assures the careful measurement and independent validation of service and satisfaction results.

Eligibility for the 2017 QE Award requires a minimum number of surveys sent and returned, which may be adjusted from year to year based upon market conditions and the number of participants. More than 30,000 real estate agents and 750 companies elected to participate in the customer satisfaction assessment survey process in 2016 for the 2017 QE Award.

About Quality Service Certification  

Quality Service Certification, Inc., based in San Juan Capistrano, CA, provides the most accurate and valuable customer service measurement service for the real estate industry, having conducted more than 2 million customer satisfaction surveys of real estate agents. QSC offers consumers the only complete, reliable and unbiased picture of participating agents’ overall and detailed customer service satisfaction history. QSC provides real estate agents the timely and detailed feedback they need to both improve and maintain their highest levels of professional service. For brokerages, QSC offers a Performance Management Platform that helps firms better influence, manage and control professional activities that they can otherwise not see – resulting in measurably better, more satisfying and a more valued customer service experience. Founded in 2000, accurate, reliable, independently validated survey results of individual agents from QSC can be accessed by visiting RatedAgent.com.

Real Living McCarthy Real Estate Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Marietta, OH-based Real Living McCarthy Real Estate just celebrated 60 years in business this winter. Located right on the Ohio River bordering West Virginia, the brokerage has seen a lot of change in its local economy over the past six decades. From large factories producing plastics, oil and gas to a huge reservoir and a power plant, despite the changes, the firm has managed to stay consistently strong.
“I believe we’ll have another really good year,” said Steve McCarthy, broker/owner at Real Living McCarthy Real Estate. “We don’t see the highs and lows so much around Marietta.” McCarthy bought the company with his brother and sister in 1989 from their late father, Walter J. McCarthy, who started the company in 1957 during the post-war residential development boom.
“Congratulations to the team at Real Living McCarthy Real Estate,” said Robert McAdams Jr., president of Real Living Real Estate. “We wish them many, many more years of continued success!”

Real Living Realty Professionals Brokerage Partners with Medical Center

Real Living Realty Professionals in Springfield, MA recently donated $15,000 to Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Behavioral Health Care to combat the more than 2,000 opioid-related deaths that occurred in Massachusetts last year.
“We just want to do something for our community to help pay back a little bit to help someone recover today,” said Robert Molta, president of Real Living Realty Professionals. Representatives from Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Behavioral Health Care said the money will be used to improve their facilities and get people in recovery the treatment they need.
[Pictured above: Robert Molta, president of Real Living Realty Professionals, presents Dr. Robert Roose of Mercy Behavioral Health Care with a check for $15,000 from the brokerage.]

Real Living Real Estate Network Professional Recognized by National Association of REALTORS® for Commitment to Homeownership

Cindy Fox, broker with Real Living Now in St. Louis, was recently recognized by the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC), a national bipartisan grassroots-based political advocacy organization as a “Hall of Fame” inductee for her contribution and support.

Cindy Fox

The RPAC Hall of Fame recognizes dedicated members whose investments total an aggregate of at least $25,000. Members are inducted at a Washington, D.C. meeting in May. “I’m proud to be part of the Hall of Fame, and even prouder to support RPAC all these years,” said Fox.

Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: T3 Summit

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Westlake Village, CA for the 2017 T3 Summit, a premier real estate event that brings together leaders from around the country to take part in hearty discussions about the current state of our industry and how to best move the needle forward and bring about positive, progressive change. More than 30 CEOs and C-level executives join Stefan Swanepoel, chairman/CEO of the T3 Summit Group, onstage during the conference, sharing their unique experiences and how they’ve overcome challenges specific to residential real estate. I was humbled to have been asked to be among this group and honored to share my life’s story with the crowd.


In the green room with @stefan.swanepoel, about to take the stage at T3 Summit!

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Additional keynote speakers provide insight from beyond the real estate industry. This year’s speaker list included: Robyn Benincasa, adventurer and CNN Hero; Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods; and Michael Gerber, a small business guru. More than fifteen deep-dive sessions cover industry-specific issues like the search for NAR’s next CEO, the tale behind the BRIGHT MLS merger (one of the largest mergers in the nation), conversion of broker data into valuable assets and the unexpected, even radical viewpoints that could potentially change the way we conduct real estate forevermore. I also have to give major kudos to Stefan, whose mastery comes through in not only his expert moderation of these sessions but also in how well-organized the entire event is year after year. T3 Summit is a true example of precision in action—everything starts and ends exactly when it should and delivers on precisely the topic at hand.

With Stefan Swanepoel, chairman and CEO of Swanepoel T3 Group at Swanepoel T3 Summit!

Posted by Gino Blefari on Thursday, May 4, 2017

One of the most interesting aspects of the T3 Summit is its limited space. The event is capped at 300 leaders and specifically designed to address challenges, obstacles and roadblocks that are currently being faced by the real estate industry. As you know, I’m a proponent of setting specific, attainable and actionable goals and T3 is organized to meet just this one. I’m also an advocate of think tank groups, and this event, too, is structured to be a large-scale think tank group of leaders who, for a few days in Westlake Village, sit down and focus on finding real solutions to specific problems plaguing real estate today.

So, what’s the message? T3 Summit may be an event limited to just 300 attendees but the idea behind it is certainly without limits. When was the last time you sat down with a thoughtful, thought-provoking group of leaders and engaged in serious discussion about the challenges set before you? The power of this exercise cannot be underestimated or undervalued. Change doesn’t happen on its own and definitely it doesn’t happen without meaningful conversation—like the kind that goes on at T3 Summit—meant to help leaders arrive at a solution that’s transformational and new.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts on Leadership: The Balance of Old and New

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California working from my home office then in Denver for the 2017 Real Trends Gathering of Eagles conference. This year marks a special one for the annual assembly of our country’s brightest and most innovative real estate leaders, as Real Trends is celebrating 30 years in business. Since the start of 2017, Steve Murray, editor and president of REAL Trends, Inc., has been publishing articles all about what the milestone means not only for the company but also for him. Murray said this in a recent story about the anniversary: “Things have changed—and not changed—since that first edition … It’s funny to think how the world has stayed remarkably similar over the past 30 years.”

Here are some fun facts he shared about the real estate industry when REAL Trends first began:



    In 1987, there were more than 800,000 Realtors® in the U.S. Today, there are 1.2 million U.S. Realtors®, which means the population has grown substantially in that 30-year span. (A good fact to share with those who question if a real estate agent is crucial to the home-buying and selling process.)

  • Three decades ago, the Sales and Marketing Management Institute said online shopping for homes through television was the hot, new trend. While the Institute may have gotten the device wrong, we can all agree online—and mobile—dominate most buyers’ initial home search.
  • A study commissioned by NAR in 1987 featured this commentary: “Electronic advertising almost certainly will be tried and very likely will be economically viable.” (Well yes, you can say that again!)

It was with this interesting information in mind that I arrived at Gathering of Eagles on Wednesday, excited to learn about the changes happening in our industry but knowing, as Murray wisely pointed out, some things still remain very much the same.

The agenda for the conference focused on celebrating the past with an attentive eye on the future, which fits squarely with exactly what Murray has been writing about in regards to REAL Trends’ 30-year anniversary.

One of the highlights for me was a keynote by Good to Great bestselling author Jim Collins. (If you read last week’s Thursday Thoughts, you’ll remember I referenced Collins’ ideas; I’ve long been a fan of his insightful book and even used it as the blueprint in 2002 when building Intero Real Estate Services.) Collins spoke about his Twelve Questions, a sequence of question that, as he explained, “serve as a mechanism of disciplined thought for a leader and his or her team.” You can view those questions here, and as Collins recommends, discuss one question per month with your team to create a calendar year of disciplined thought. He then recommends repeating this practice the following year, tapping into the power of habitual learning and discussing each question at least once every year.

So, what’s the message? Throughout all these discussions, as we spoke about ways to digitally market, to streamline, to improve and bring your team from from good to great, I kept thinking about how critical it is to understand these cutting-edge, forward-thinking ideas and systems but to also know that the fundamentals, as Collins stressed in his keynote, must still be in place. This was especially true at Gathering of Eagles, where new topics were on the agenda but old friends gathered together to idea-share, catch up and learn. There’s nothing like that solid camaraderie, based on decades-long friendships, to inspire you and your business! This close camaraderie is the very reason why, despite whatever SEO tricks you use to rank higher in Google or social media platforms you pursue to gain business speed, you must have the core values of leadership in place—a great team, a vibrant culture, a commitment to quality service, a network of mentors and old friends to guide you, a system of accountability—in order to reach your goals. That’s not to say the latest and greatest isn’t just so (it’s all important) but what’s more important is achieving a careful balance between the old and new, the digital and personal, the disruptive and the time-tested; it’s how you’ll find sustainable success and, like Steve Murray’s REAL Trends, remain in business for 30 years and counting!

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Celebration

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first working from my home office in Northern California and then eastbound to Miami for the AREAA Global Luxury Summit, all about the rise of Miami as an international powerhouse for high-end real estate investment. Speaking of real estate, spring is such a critical time in the cycle of a real estate agent—we’re right in the middle of spring selling season—and it’s often a time when we expect a lot and reality may not always deliver. That’s why I want to write today about the importance of celebration, (as you know, I always say we must celebrate the small wins), and how critical it is to make time to celebrate as we move onward and upward in our careers. Oprah Winfrey once said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

I recently attended a top-agent awards dinner in New Jersey where celebration took center stage. The event was an impressive, elegant evening honoring a group of incredibly hard working agents, held at the beautiful Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City. Now, I know most of you reading this weren’t there, so let me set the scene: Floor-to-ceiling windows framed an early afternoon New York City skyline view, special presentations recognized top agents and top teams company-wide for 2016, and a talented a capella band, Blue Jupiter, serenaded the crowd and even wished me a happy birthday! (Yes, as it happened, this awards celebration fell right around my birthday.)

Oprah Winfrey once said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

So, what’s the message? Celebrate your success, for these happy times will get you through the tougher ones. Good to Great bestselling author Jim Collins famously wrote this about mediocrity: “Those who build and perpetuate mediocrity … are motivated more by the fear of being left behind.” Great leaders do not welcome mediocrity and fear greatness, in fact, they embrace greatness, they CELEBRATE it! Whenever you achieve something great—whether it be the top agent ranking in your brokerage or a new client—be sure to stop and celebrate your accomplishment; a memorable celebration like the one organized in New Jersey will motivate you to create even more reasons to celebrate yet again.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thoughts on Leadership: Love What you Do

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Las Vegas and then Phoenix, meeting with local network member brokerages. As usual, I’ve been traveling a lot lately and with the upcoming holiday weekend, airports have been more crowded, roads filled with more traffic and getting around has been just a little bit harder. It’s during these somewhat stressful times I must constantly remind myself how much I absolutely love what I do—serving our network brokerages and helping people achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence.

I’ve often said I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with, and that means working with great leaders, whose energy, enthusiasm and dedication to their agents is beyond compare.

To inspire you today and to get you thinking about this important concept, I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes related to the idea of loving what you do:

  • “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” – Confucius
  • “When you find that job that causes you to be excited every day—forget about the pay—with the people you love, doing what you love, it doesn’t get any better than that.” – Warren Buffet

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs

  • “What I know is, is that if you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.” – Oprah Winfrey

So, what’s the message? You MUST love what you do! I’ve been speaking recently about the power of unleashing your full potential and you can only unleash this potential if you are involved in work you love. The advice might sound simple but it is simply profound. In fact, not a day has gone by since I first started in the real estate industry more than 30 years ago that I haven’t woken up, completed my morning routine and felt grateful to get to do the work I love for yet another day. It’s an important reminder and at the very essence of our careers and our livelihoods. If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it. But if you do, you’ll automatically and willingly put every inch of your being into your work … except because it’s work you truly love, it won’t ever feel like work at all.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.