Changes in B2B buying behavior make social media the channel best suited today to engaging digital buyers, says a Forrester Research report.

The social media marketing pendulum is in full swing and the medium no longer is relegated to building brand awareness. Instead, the time is now for business-to-business company marketers to hear what buyers say on social media and respond in an authentic way, according to a recent report from Forrester Research Inc.

Social media is becoming the channel best suited for engaging digital-first buyers, writes Steven Casey, principal analyst for B2B marketing and chief author of the report titled “Hitting The Restart Button On Social Media.”

In social media, marketers shouldn’t just wait for a chance to speak, they need to “actively listen to what buyers are saying about themselves and their companies,” Casey writes. “Only then can you hope to engage with the empathy and authenticity they demand.”

Benefiting from social media flows from good planning. Casey offers the following study tips for B2B marketers:

Listen before you speak. Beyond waiting for a chance to speak, marketers “need to actively listen to what your buyers are telling you about themselves and their companies so that you can respond with relevant content” buyers will value. “You don’t want to become a ‘me’ monster—only talking about your products, people and awards,” Gabe Villamizar, head of B2B marketing at online chart-maker Lucidchart, said in the report.

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Audit your content. In other words test whether you’ve tailored content to the behavioral norms of each channel. As with all marketing, context matters most. The invitation to your upcoming thought-leadership webinar that works on LinkedIn will get a chilly reception on Facebook. Will you be competing for attention with a TED talk or with GIFs of kittens and puppies?

Evaluate consumer channels. Be prepared to step outside your business comfort zone and follow your buyers wherever they go in social media, Casey writes. “Facebook is the preferred social channel for both consumer and business content for lots of people today,” said Paige Leidig, chief marketing officer of NetBase Solutions, a social analytics software vendor. “But it’s already old-school to millennials, who are off exploring new channels.”

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