Social media verification aims to verify that an account is truly owned by the person or organization that it claims to represent. But the process varies between platforms and has changed rapidly in recent months — a situation likely to continue.
If you run a small business or make a living through your social media presence, it’s important to stay abreast of what these changes mean for you.
This article summarizes the current state of play — suggesting some points to consider about getting your own account verified. Twitter pioneered verification, so we will start there before looking more broadly.
A brief history of Twitter account verification
Twitter pioneered verification — back in 2009. The blue check mark was intended to indicate the authenticity of significant accounts (mostly celebrities and large organizations). Google+, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest followed suit in subsequent years. Although the details of each varied, these verification processes were free of charge.
Then, following Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter in October 2022, the so-called Twitter Blue Plan was introduced. Under this new system, accounts that paid a subscription (and met a number of other requirements such as linking to a verified phone number) became eligible for a blue tick.
Things took a rather twisty course after that — with numerous controversies and u-turns. But (at the time of writing) a blue, verified tick in Twitter requires securing and paying for a Twitter Blue subscription ($8/month). Government organizations, meanwhile, are labeled with a gray tick, and other major organizations with a gold tick.
Twitter Blue currently provides subscribers with a palette of additional features and benefits. For example, you get more characters per tweet — useful flexibility for capturing more complex ideas (try providing a precise and useful RDD meaning in just 280 characters otherwise!). In addition, Twitter Blue accounts seem to get a boost in reach and visibility (albeit difficult to quantify).
Further controversy ensued when Twitter started removing legacy blue ticks — those given before the introduction of Twitter Blue. Many users questioned why they should pay when they are already giving Twitter value (via their data) and others criticized the robustness of the verification process.
It has been a tumultuous time for Twitter verification, and it is far from clear that things have settled for good.
And, thus, the contours of the debate were outlined. Why should we pay a subscription as well as give our data? Is the verification process a robust and meaningful one? How is the approach and model likely to evolve? And — perhaps crucially for small business users — is paying currently worth it, for the benefits and advantages conferred?
Meta follows suit with Meta Verified
Where Twitter went, Meta soon followed. March 2023 saw the launch of Meta Verified — impacting Facebook and Instagram.
After making a payment ($11.99 or $14.99 depending on the platform), meeting various criteria, and submitting a photo ID, users can open a Meta Verified subscription. As well as gaining the familiar verified blue check mark, Meta Verified offers subscribers other features — including higher security and customer support.
Meta initially included greater reach and visibility as a core benefit. However, they removed this prior to launch. Some speculate that it is being held back for inclusion in a future, yet to be confirmed, higher tier subscription.
But, once again, the development prompted much debate. Do its benefits make it a worthy investment for small businesses? What broader significance does it hold?
A mixed landscape
Twitter and Meta’s shift to subscription models has added new complexity to the social media verification landscape. Indeed, each platform has its own approach, requirements, payment models (or not), and user benefits.
Whilst Twitter and Meta have begun charging, most other social platforms (such as YouTube, LinkedIn, and TikTok) continue to offer an unpaid verification model. For instance, Snapchat offers free verification — separate from its paid-for Snapchat+ option. Pinterest, on the other hand, has currently paused its program for review.
Therefore, although we might talk about social media verification in general terms, it is important to be aware of the divergent approaches. Make sure you know the different arrangements in place for each platform you use — and how they are evolving.
Why does verification matter?
Verification matters because it is a live and evolving issue across social media platforms.
If you are a business that uses social media or an individual that relies on it for your livelihood, you need to stay informed about it. That is true whether or not you are currently verified — and even whether or not you intend to be verified in the future.
A lot more is at stake than just that blue check mark next to your account.
- For Twitter and Meta, verification has been monetized and bundled. It requires a not insignificant financial investment — and other platforms may follow suit.
- Within the new subscription approaches of Meta Verified and Twitter Blue, features and benefits are already notably diverging. These need to be weighed up against the cost.
- This divergence will likely continue — with verification as one element of a broader benefit bundle. Meta may introduce new subscription tiers, offering additional benefits like increased reach, but no one really knows. And other platforms may follow suit.
In addition to all that, of course, you need to consider the consumers of your social media content — your customers, followers, and leads. What do they make of all this?
Potential benefits of verification
It’s still very early days so there is little quantitative research exploring the impact of the new verification models on areas such as audience reach, engagement, and trust.
We can, however, take note of the experiences of other businesses that have taken the plunge. Some have made use of analytics tools provided by the platforms (e.g. Twitter insights) to assess the impact on their brand’s activity.
Here, in brief, are some of the cited benefits of getting verified.
- Proof of authenticity: That blue tick can reassure people that you are who you say you are. If you have ever had issues with impersonator accounts, this may be especially worthwhile. That said, some question the blue tick’s value, claiming that the verification process can be cheated.
- Credibility: For some customers (but not all), that blue tick can indicate a legitimate, well-established, and approved brand.
- Engagement: Although the evidence thus far is anecdotal, some Twitter Blue and Meta Verified users do report better audience engagement with their content, which can potentially lead to follower growth.
- Security: With a blue tick you are helping to protect your audience against impersonators. Indeed, Meta Verified includes proactive impersonation protection.
- Exclusive features: Twitter Blue includes an extra palette of tweeting functionality. Meta Verified offers better customer support and other tools. Such divergence may well grow.
- Improved reach: Although removed from Meta Verified, this may well make a comeback as a benefit. Twitter’s algorithms, meanwhile, appear to boost the exposure of Twitter Blue accounts.
- Self-motivation: If you’re paying for a service, you’re likely to make better use of it — benefitting your business. For example, if you are losing Instagram followers, this could give you the impetus to push harder.
- Stay ahead: Opting into verification now might make it easier to benefit from further future changes (like early notice of upcoming changes or advanced access to new features).
Research the specifics of each platform you use and closely follow how these are evolving. Additionally, it’s important to leverage social media tools to monitor and manage your verification status. By using these tools, you can make informed decisions about your online presence.
This verification issue is essential if maximizing social media reach is an important part of your marketing strategy.
We seem to have moved into the early days of a new chapter in verification. While the social media giants work it out, we have to keep a close watch and decide what’s best for our businesses.
Stay aware of this shifting landscape — new pricing models, features, and potential benefits. Even if you decide verification is not important for you right now, such changes could significantly impact your social media presence in the future.