In B2B marketing, we all live two lives — online and offline. Yes, these two personas intertwine and overlap, and it is probably impossible to try and disentangle the two, but the truth is that, in today’s B2B world, we are all living in those two distinct environments. Thus, we have one “face” to those we know offline, and another to those we know online. And how should you choose that online face, otherwise known as an “avatar?” Well, we have all heard the adage “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and it looks like this maxim holds true for the online world as well.
To explain, social and behavioral research has shown that your physical appearance online affects not only how others perceive you, but also how you yourself act. A study was done on participants in a virtual environment to see how their behavior might change based on their looks or height. The study found that people who were given more attractive avatars conformed to the expectation that attractive people are more friendly and extroverted, while those with taller avatars conformed to the stereotype that taller people are more confident.
Known as the Proteus Effect, this phenomenon occurs when we make inferences about how our appearance should make us act, and then conform to those actions. This has huge implications in B2B marketing and social media, because it means our online appearance not only affects how others perceive us, but also how we ourselves may act inside our online worlds. With Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook becoming staples in B2B marketing, this is extremely significant, and something of which we all need to be aware.
So, when choosing your avatar, think about who you want to be and what you want to accomplish online. Yes, how others will view your avatar is important, but the fact that you yourself may be influenced by this appearance is even more important — because, in the end, it is only what you offer and accomplish online that will keep people engaged and connected to you.