Verification on social media has been commodified.
Verification is when a social media user proves their identity to the social media provider and receives a verified label in return, signifying to others on the platform that they are who they say they are. Verification is often a status symbol as well.
Several major social media companies are switching up verification models. Most recently, Meta launched Meta Verified, which lets users pay a monthly fee to receive a blue check on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter also changed over to a paid verification model, enabling Twitter Blue subscribers to register for verification.
A Meta Verified subscription costs $14.99 per month if signing up on iOS or Android. It costs $11.99 if signing up through the web -- but this option is only available for Facebook, not Instagram. To use Meta Verified on both Facebook and Instagram, users need to subscribe to each separately. Twitter Blue starts at $8 per month.
In February 2023, 82% of those surveyed said they would not subscribe when it became available, according to a survey from Forrester.
Paid verification provides social networks with another revenue stream beyond advertising. It can help social media providers, such as Meta and Twitter, garner extra income at a time when the traditional advertising business model is slowing down.
History of verification on social media
Verification has traditionally been achieved by providing proof of identity and noteworthiness. One common misconception is that verification means Twitter or another social network is endorsing the blue-checked user. Users submit verification requests, and then platforms vet them before verifying them.
Twitter has a notorious verification history. Verification first emerged on Twitter in 2009 to distinguish between real people's accounts and imposters. Tony La Russa, former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, sued Twitter when he found someone pretending to be him on the site. Twitter developed a verification system in response to the lawsuit called Verified Accounts.
Instagram -- also prone to imposters -- launched its verification system in 2014 to keep the platform authentic and free of spammy accounts. Snapchat also added an Official Stories designation in 2015, similar to Twitter's and Instagram's verification features. Tumblr, in November 2022, parodied Twitter's newly monetized verification scheme by making an Important Blue Internet Checkmark available for $7.99, boosting its revenue.
The first major social platform to introduce paid social verification was Twitter. In late 2022, the price of a Twitter Blue subscription increased from $5 to $8 per month and gave subscribers a blue checkmark in its paid verification debut. Twitter also began recently removing blue checks earned through the old, unpaid verification program.
In March 2023, Meta also introduced a paid verification service. Many social platforms also have unpaid verification features. Some notable ones are the following:
In May 2023, Google also announced it would begin using a blue checkmark in Gmail for brands that use Brand Indicators for Message Identification. The feature is for brands that want to use a brand logo as an avatar in Gmail.
In the same month, LinkedIn announced three free verification features:
- Job posting verification, which shows that a post is authentic by vetting the official company page, poster's work email and government ID.
- Profile verification, which includes additional info about the profile's creation date, when it was last updated and contact information.
- Message warnings, which alert the user if a message contains sensitive info or could pose a security threat, such as asking to take the conversation to another platform.
Why is verification important?
Verification on social networks is an instant sign of credibility and identity authentication. For example, a Meta Verified subscription is authenticated using a government ID and a selfie video. A verified account shows up higher in search results and stands out from unverified accounts. This can help potential customers find a brand more easily. It can also help content creators and influencers reach a wider audience. Verification also helps combat bots and spam.
Social platforms with paid verification offer additional features that weren't available to users who had unpaid verification. Not all social sites offer paid verification. Different platforms offer specific benefits through paid verification programs. For example, Meta offers proactive impersonation protection and direct customer support access. Proactive impersonation protection means Meta actively monitors for people impersonating an account with a growing online audience.
Twitter Blue lets users edit a tweet a certain amount of times after posting it and enables them to post much longer tweets and videos than standard accounts. A standard Twitter account can post up to 280 characters and a maximum video length of two minutes and 20 seconds. A Twitter Blue account can post a video of up to 60 minutes and 10,000-character tweets. Some of Twitter's features, such as the two-factor authentication text messaging system, are only be available to Twitter Blue subscribers.
But paid verification also has its downsides. It could theoretically be seen as a form of pay to play, giving those who can afford it an unfair advantage over those who cannot. It can also lead to an increase in fake accounts. At the beginning of paid verification on Twitter, some people created fake accounts pretending to be celebrities. Twitter requires a photo of a government-issued ID to get the blue verified badge. A lot of celebrities would rather do away with the blue check then pay for it. William Shatner, for example, tweeted, "Now you're telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free?"
The argument could be made that users already pay for social media in the swaths of data they hand over to the platforms, and asking them to pay more to receive more security features is wrong when those features should be embedded in the system.
How to get verified on social media
Different sites look for different criteria to verify users. Criteria used for verification on Facebook and Twitter include the following:
- Authenticity. Meta and Twitter users need to submit multiple forms of identification to verify the account is authentic, including a selfie, email address or government-issued ID -- depending on the platform -- and whether the entity seeking verification is an individual or a whole organization.
- Notability. Accounts must represent a well-known brand or entity. The platform may independently investigate through direct outreach or business partnerships before granting verification. Twitter's verification process specifically may require an applicant to provide proof of importance in the form of news coverage, Google Trends, Wikipedia articles, follower or mention count, industry-specific references or search volume on the platform. Facebook no longer requires notability or uniqueness, but some accounts retain their blue check under that criterion.
- Activity. The user must have a good track record on the platform and show their account isn't idle. They should have been logged in to the platform recently and used it in a way that doesn't violate the platform's rules.
- Completeness. The account must be complete with all the basics, including profile picture, name, bio and posts.
- Uniqueness. Social media companies want accounts to be a unique representation of the owner.
The specific steps to become verified on Meta and Twitter are the following.
- Go to Settings.
- Click Accounts Center and then Meta Verified. Meta Verified available appears under the name and profile of eligible accounts.
- Click the account to register with. Users must set up Verified on Instagram and Facebook separately.
- Select a payment method for monthly payments.
- Provide ID verification through government-issued ID and selfie video.
- Log in, and select the Twitter Blue button under the Profile menu.
- Follow the in-app purchase and verification instructions.
- Select payment frequency -- either annually or monthly.
- Ensure the profile is complete with a photo and display name. Try to avoid recent changes to the profile photo, Twitter handle or display name, as these may present as deceptive to Twitter's review team.
- Ensure the account is active.
- Ensure there is a confirmed phone number associated with the account.
Social media platforms are an important channel for increasing brand awareness and driving web traffic. Paying for verification is one way to do that on social networks, but there are others. Learn how to incorporate social media into search engine optimization strategies to increase website visibility.