Getting to know Instagram for Business and how to handle it.
Social media verification: An introduction
Climbing the social ladder has gotten a whole new meaning in the era of social networks. What once applied to the risky endeavour of weaseling your way into the upper class now can might as well be becoming Insta-famous (and that has become a job title in itself).
Social networks are a jungle, yes, especially Twitter with its frenetic pace and firestorm of tweets, and Instagram, with its sheer multitude of imagery that sometimes reduce it to banality. But, as we’ve discussed in the past in our SMM on Twitter guide and SMM on Instagram guide, the benefits of using both Twitter and Instagram as a part of your SMM strategy are impossible to ignore. They are both powerful social media tools that can do wonders for your marketing, and understanding how to use them to your advantage is of paramount importance.
As both networks have grown in size and importance they have introduced the concept of «verified users».
Verified users are those whose identities are checked and confirmed by the social network in question, as a way to confirm they are legitimate individuals, organizations, brands and companies and differentiate them from impersonators. The fact that both networks have given users a way to get verified in the first place, speaks that they want to nurture legitimate businesses, individuals and organizations and help them thrive. Or to put it more bluntly — to weed out the bad, in this ripe digital age of spammers, impersonators and online scams.
But what started out as a way to differentiate legitimate brands and personas ended up as a kind of endorsement and an implication of worth. In other words, a status symbol. The harder it is to get verified on a social network — the more exclusive, and people go to all kinds of lengths to get in.
But is account verification something that should be on your marketing agenda? How important is it to get verified?
The simple answer would be: loads. If you’ve noticed that little blue check mark on celebrities' accounts and how it adds another layer of credibility, you realize that it’s an exclusive club it wouldn’t hurt to join. But in order to unravel what it takes to get verified on both platforms, we’ll have to get a little more prosaic.
We’ve already established doing your business' marketing on Twitter and Instagram is a no-brainer, but taking that extra step and getting your account verified can be another way of improving the reach of your business, and how trusted it is. Let’s explore how to do it.
Why get verified on Twitter?
Getting that elusive blue checkmark is most definitely a sign of trust within the Twitter community. Although there are some sceptical users who don’t want to be bothered about it, the fact remains — to the average user, a verified account is an effective source of authority. Most people’s understanding of marketing is rather unsophisticated — they know what the blue checkmark is, how rare it is, and that some people have it — and some don’t. Guess which is better?
Twitter is currently working on new policies concerning its verification process, which is on hold for new requests, as of December, 2017. We’ll update this guide as soon as that info is made public.
- You will get more trust within the Twitter community. This one is rather straightforward — I’m sure that you can easily translate the feeling you get when you see the blue checkmark to how other people would react when they see yours. Usually, it inspires immediate trust.
- Prevents identity theft. This is closely tied to the previous point, as it’s a sure way to prove that your account belongs solely to you, in a social network world where fake or imposter accounts keep cropping up. Verification works as an effective way to fight this phenomenon (or as the most effective option available currently in existence, at least) as it’s not only an indicator of your authority for your followers, but for Twitter as well. If people know that your account is verified, consequently, they’ll know that anyone else trying to contact them isn’t you.
- It’s likely that you’ll gain more followers. You can gain more followers if your account is verified due to several reasons. First, in case there are multiple accounts with your name or your brand’s name (either benign parody ones or malevolent phishy ones) people will know the real deal with the help of the little blue checkmark. Second, you are bound to see a rise in followers and messages from random individuals who are themselves trying to get their account verified and want your authority on the subject. This will encourage them to engage with you, especially if you imply that following a verified user can only benefit their cause.
- You can use it as leverage to get verified on other sites, such as Facebook or Instagram. Social networks are intricate webs of influence, and they are interconnected with each other. You can use multiple social network accounts for your marketing (in fact, we recommend it), and sometimes your influence ripples across them (if you use them wisely). The same goes for getting verified. If you can prove to one social network that you’ve been trusted by another, it can ease the next verification process. The fact remains, when you’re a notable individual or a brand, but not a stop-dead-in-your-tracks celebrity or a multi million international corporation, your verification won’t fall from the sky. But having a verified profile on Twitter might increase your chances with other networks such as Facebook or Instagram.
- You get automatic verification on Periscope. When a network owns another network, that usually spells: perks. Okay, this might be only a peripheral perk that might not matter to a lot of people — but if you’re one of those who would like to explore the livestreaming system owned by Twitter — bingo. Even if you aren’t — it might be worth a thought, especially when taken into account that even back in 2016, people on the platform watched around 110 years worth of video daily. Fun, huh?
- You can filter your Notifications stream to include only activity from other verified users. This might be relevant to people with huge followings, as it might be difficult for them to filter relevant content.
Who is eligible for verification on Twitter?
We touched upon this subject briefly in our detailed SMM on Twitter guide, but it’s time we look at it in depth.
There was once a time where the blue insignia mentioned above signified Twitter royalty — you couldn’t get it in any other way besides having some moderator at Twitter entrust you with it themselves — through direct notice. It wasn’t available upon request and the only course of action available was that you grow as an individual or as a brand and reach that point when people notice you, and in turn — Twitter notices you.
You don’t need to know the ins and outs of Twitter marketing or the details of earning verification in order to understand that having it bestowed upon you by Twitter themselves means you have passed some kind of test of worth.
But, the good news is that, as of July 2016, Twitter has opened up their verification process. The bad news? The bad news is that Twitter’s guidelines are vague enough to ensure that it still remains fully at their discretion. It looks like it might still be more a matter of who generates more buzz on the social network, than any credentials in your own field of expertise. But let’s look at the about section on verified accounts at Twitter in the hopes that we can shed some light on the matter: «An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.»
That’s literally about it. It hasn’t helped at all when it comes to spreading rumours and speculation as to exactly what «public interest» means. Back in 2013 there was a famous news item about how the parents of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey couldn’t get verified on the network. So if his own mother can’t, then who can, right?
That being said, the broad term «business» really opens up the playfield.
Generally speaking, the debate has settled (somewhat) that apart from the individuals, brands, organizations and companies in the entertainment, journalism and media industries, in politics, and religion, if you belong to any of the following groups, you might also be eligible:
- A social network persona with a decent following.
This guide can also function as a way for you to form an opinion on whether your profile has what it takes to get verified, and whether it will be worth the while for you.
How to get verified on Twitter (step by step)
…and without being famous, at that?
If you’ve weighed down the pros and cons, and want to give it a try, here’s the more technical part of the process.
It’s true that a lot of users who’ve tried getting their account verified report they’ve been declined. But, don’t worry, Twitter lets you re-submit a verification form every 30 days. So it’s tricky, we know, but it can be done, especially after multiple attempts.
The Twitter verification process in 7 easy steps
Here’s the process you need to go through in order to get your account verified:
- Go to the verification request form. You need to be logged in your Twitter account to continue.
- Confirm the username you would like to verify. It will automatically give you the username of the account you are currently logged in. If you are attempting to verify an organization or business, you have to tick the box on the bottom left.
- Add any missing information on your profile. If your Twitter account is missing any information you’ll be notified on the next page. This part is of course, trickier than making sure you’ve typed a few words in your bio section and uploaded a profile or a cover photo, because if it was so, that would have made just about anybody eligible. We’ll give you some pro tips on how to boost your chances to get verified in the next section.
- Enter a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 5 websites as references. References can be websites where your public influence is clearly shown, news appearances, high traffic content producers. Note: Your personal/business website should be provided in your bio, so you don’t have to repeat yourself here.
- Explain why «this account should be verified». This is a 500 character long section that essentially contains blurb where you give Twitter your reasons to notice you.
- Wait to be contacted by Twitter. You will be contacted by the Twitter Verified account via direct message, if the gods of Twitter decide you qualify, and then proceed to complete the verification process.
Now, since we’ve gotten that out of the way we can delve deeper in what can make or break your chances to get that blue checkmark. While it’s obvious that you have to fill out your profile completely by adding a profile picture, name, bio, cover photo, and website, here are some pro tips on how to do it:
Your bio section must mention an area of expertise
Remember, your bio is open for everyone to see, but it also appears in results when people search for your name. So having your bio state exactly what you do is vital if you want to market via your twitter profile. Be smart with this and use it wisely.
Not only that, use the biggest job title you can in your bio
What sounds better to have in your bio, just «marketing» or «head of marketing»? That’s what I thought. Additionally, if you can squeeze in the biggest job title first, do it. Make those characters count. If you just started your company and you’re its sole employee, there’s still no getting around the fact that you’re your company’s CEO. Mention that. Every slight semantic difference counts when you’re trying to pitch the importance of what you do.
Add meaningful connections
For individuals, add employer (current or past), and any connections with other Twitter profiles (such as «husband to @wife's name, worked at @Firm name) you might have.
Because you know what sounds even better than «head of marketing»? «Head of marketing at @company name»! Social proof is everything. And when you mention high profile names publicly like that, it’s just short of them giving you a direct reference.
Link to other verified Twitter accounts in your bio
If you can get your hands on a Twitter account that is verified and link to it, that would be wonderful, as it clearly shows Twitter that you are within the circle of other brands or individuals that Twitter already trusts. So, «head of marketing at @verified company name» would be the ideal opener for your bio. But if you’re not a «head» of anything, other job titles would also work «writer for @verified company name».
For organizations, add numbers and specifics to your Twitter bio
Is there anywhere in the realm of online marketing where this is not relevant? Numbers can do wonders, and it’s always handy to include something like: «3 million customers», or «In business since 1992», or «award of the year for this or that»!
Include your real location in your bio
This is only if you want to play it safe, since there is no conclusive evidence whether it matters or not. It’s good to keep in mind though, in case your current location is something terribly witty like «Mars» or «Wonderland».
Twitter profile photo and cover photo
- This is pretty self-explanatory, but i didn’t want to leave it out — include a good, professional looking photo of yourself if you want to get verified as a person, or your brand’s logo for example if you’re trying to verify your business' account. Your profile picture should reflect what you do.
- Same goes for your cover photo. If you’re an individual, make sure your cover photo gives a good and accurate representation of what you do. Inspirational quotes are great, i know, but don’t forget that your cover photo has to be worthy of a person of «public interest», and it should ideally represent you doing something important. So a picture of you speaking at a conference, or signing a book would look great.
- Photo ID. If you’re applying for verification of a personal profile as opposed to a business profile, you’ll also need a copy of your passport, personal ID or driver’s license to prove that there’s an actual person behind your twitter profile name.
- Name. For individuals your twitter name should be your real stage name. If you’re Snoop Dogg you can be either Snoop Dogg or Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr, but nothing else.
- Add a verified phone number and confirm your email address. Twitter walks you through both these processes.
- Make sure that your email address on twitter matches the URL you are using in your bio. Now don’t make the rookie mistake of underestimating the importance of a suitable email address. If you say you’re a writer for The Guardian, make sure your email matches your claim. If you want to verify a corporate account, it should be linked to an email associated with the company. And absolutely do not link to a landing page or a sales page!
- Add your birthday. And you can go one step further and make it public.
- Set your tweets as «public» — since your profile is of «public interest», right? You can do it by unchecking the box in the privacy settings. This is a requirement. If you ever set your tweets as private again, you risk losing a verified badge (if you manage to snag one in the first place);
- Make sure your profile has been active for the last couple of weeks (at least).
A verified account is an account that actively reaches out to and engages its audience, so making sure your account reflects this idea is definitely important. If you’ve been in social network hibernation mode this might be the time to get your beak out and tweet. As we’ve mentioned already, the sweet spot for tweets is anywhere between 12 to 20 tweets a day.
It’s also advisable that you go all out in engaging with any @ mentions and direct messages, especially in the weeks prior and after applying for a badge.
«Why this account should be verified»
And we’ve come to the trickiest section of all. How do you pitch to Twitter itself and write «Why this account should be verified»? And it doesn’t help that Twitter gives you just 500 characters to sell yourself.
There are conflicting reports on this. Some people claim it worked for them to mention how their brand or persona is at the risk of impersonation and scamming, others swear that you need to show them why you are of public interest. Our recommendation is to strike a fine balance between the two.
- If you’re an individual, Twitter asks what’s the impact you have on the community, and if you’re a business — what’s your mission. So, when pleading your case with Twitter, it’s good practice to show how the Twitter community can benefit from your account, as opposed to the benefits for you or your business. Do you want to stop your followers from confusing you with others, and help them find you easier? Create a relationship of trust when you engage with your audience? But don’t leave it at fluff. Most importantly, you need to show why you are of public interest.
- And remember, they want to see your significance in your chosen field. You don’t necessarily need to have a cool job as an olympic athlete or a secretary of state to get verified (though I admit it’s a bonus); all you need to do is prove that you’re at the top of your field. Focus on the facts. Say how long you’ve been running your business, how good you are, include the podcasts you later supply the links for, how you’ve written for major publications, and anything that might look professional. Now this is vague, I know, but so are Twitter’s choices with who gets to be verified, and who doesn’t.
- Think of ways how to talk up your critical role in some of the industries listed above. Make it look as if you’re firmly in mainstream industry as possible.
- What probably doesn’t hurt is to mention how often you create content, engage with your followers, and participate in chats. And as we mentioned earlier, please do.
Submitting links as references
Twitter requests that you share links to support your claim in the verification form request. You have to submit a minimum of two, but we highly, highly recommend that you submit the maximum of five. Choose these very carefully and if you don’t have enough material for five excellent links, wait until you do. Don’t miss the chance to show off your expertise and importance in the broadest way possible. Think of it as a link CV.
- Company profiles (youtube channels, other social media profiles, especially if they’re verified);
- Any press mentions of you or your business (preferably from major publications relevant in your field). If you’re pitching to get verified as a public figure, this is super important;
- Guest appearances/speaking engagements;
- Links to articles you’ve written on eminent websites or publications;
- A Wikipedia page about you;
- And IMDB would be great for someone working in the film industry. You get the gist, right?
Pro tip: Study recently verified profiles
This is a great way to get inspired and observe patterns that work. The Twitter Verified account follows all verified accounts, and you can see a list of recently followed profiles if you visit their following tab. The list is currently at 287, 000 (and counting), so this is not quite the exclusive club it was back in the day. If you look around, you’ll notice two things:
- There’s plenty of variety;
- You don’t have to have bucketloads of followers.
Sign up to Amplifr and connect your Twitter profiles to measure your engagement rate and overall performance.
Losing your verified badge on Twitter
Twitter retains the full right to revoke your verification if:
- You make your tweets private;
- You change your username;
- You sell your account;
- You spam;
- You harass;
- New: you’re recognized as a member of a hate group.
A word of caution regarding new policies
As of November 2017, Twitter put their verification process on hold, after the scandal related to them verifying white supremacist Jason Kessler. You can read more about it here. It seems Twitter had never fully adopted a consistent policy regarding verification, and its vague verification rules sparked a heated public debate when it deemed a «white supremacist a person of public interest».
Here’s what the company said in a tweet: «Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon.»
In the meantime it seems new policies are brewing, and Twitter hasn’t announced a date, or any plans concerning the changes. What’s fairly certain is that some things will change, so we’ll keep a close eye on this subject and update this guide as soon as any official Twitter information is made public.
The pros and cons of trying to verify your Twitter account
- You can wear this as a badge of honor within the Twitter community;
- It’s a great way to deal with identity theft and impersonation;
- There’s a straightforward verification form;
- You get instant verification on Periscope;
- You can ease your way into getting verified on other social networks;
- You can filter your feed to show activity by verified users only;
- You can apply multiple times if you get rejected (once every 30 days).
- Twitter decides whether you’re a person of «public interest», using criteria that it doesn’t fully disclose;
- There are so many different experiences with Twitter verification, that anything goes, really;
- Verification is currently on hold and there is no clear date when it will be open to the public again.
Instagram doesn’t have an application form for verification that’s open to everyone. Wait, what? That’s right. When Instagram first introduced verification on their platform, users could apply, just like they now do on Facebook and Twitter, up until September 2015, when they switched to their current policy. The policy states: «Right now, only some public figures, celebrities and brands have verified badges. It’s not currently possible to request or purchase a verified badge».
If it’s not possible to request a badge, is there anything you can do? We’ll explore this in depth, but first let’s see what it actually means to be verified on Instagram and who is actually eligible. You can jump to the tips section if you want to skip this part altogether.
Why get verified on Instagram?
Unlike other platforms were that very same verified badge is more of a symbol than an actual perk, the story with Instagram is a bit different — it’s far from just vanity.
First things first, Instagram’s algorithm is rumored to favor verified brands. Their content gets precedence over «ordinary» badge-free accounts when it comes to better placement and more engagement. Considering the fact that Instagram is the social network where brands get the most engagement, this is a really powerful tool for your social media marketing.
- A verified badge will put you at the top of search recommendations for related searches. It’s not difficult to imagine how beneficial this can be for your brand marketing and social media presence. If there are multiple Instagram accounts with your name or the name of your brand, yours will always come on top in search, with the little blue checkmark right beside it;
- A verified badge is the best shortcut to brand credibility and efficient at dealing with brand-jacking scams, as followers will be able to differentiate which is the legitimate account of the brand they want to follow;
- What’s more, verified brands can receive early access to new Instagram features, especially ones concerning monetization. For example, outgoing links on Instagram Stories.
Who is eligible for verification on Instagram?
Do you have to be a red-carpet celebrity with millions of followers for Instagram to notice you? Well not exactly, but you have to have at least a sturdy following (for Instagram that means tens of thousands). Here’s what Instagram has to say on the matter:
«Accounts representing well-known figures and brands are verified because they have a high likelihood of being impersonated. We want to make sure that people in the Instagram community can easily find the authentic people and brands they want to follow.»
So, Instagram really goes out of their way to put emphasis on fighting impersonation. But what it does in turn is actually saying that it concerns itself primarily with «well-known» (read celebrity) figures and brands and that mere mortals will have a hard time.
It’s also important to note that Instagram’s verification process is not automated — it’s handled by moderators, and for a network with 800 million monthly active users (a number that is constantly on the rise) it must be no easy feat. What it means for you and your business? It’s also probably very subjective.
It would also be a good guess to say that Instagram wants to keep it that way because it wants to maintain complete control over the verification process. But the fact that there is no official system makes it hard to gauge the roadblocks ahead.
Tips on how to get your account verified on Instagram
That being said, Is there anything you can do to make your account stand out in a sea of brands and influencers lusting after a verified account? That’s a very hard question to answer, because whatever you do, in the end, Instagram decides. But you can do several things to up your chances of getting noticed.
Getting verified on other platforms first
Okay having a verified account on Facebook is not synonymous with having one on Instagram, not anymore anyway. But if Instagram is by any chance reviewing your account and deciding whether your brand is strong enough, they will of course look closely on Facebook, to determine the scope of your following and social impact.
There’s also something else to consider — you might not have become a somebody on Instagram yet, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not a somebody on some other network! That translates to fans probably trying to reach you on other social media profiles and this is where you stand a chance.
If you’ve started to gain an admirable following on other networks, such as Youtube for example, chances are that users who actively follow and engage with you on Youtube will probably be searching for your Instagram account. In a scenario such as this, it’s in Instagram’s best interest to lead them to the right person and verify your account, rather than have them follow a fake person or brand (which doesn’t exactly improve user experience, does it?) Anyways, that is exactly what they’re saying in the quotation above.
This is what the ladies over at Stockroom believe helped them in getting their verified badge the most — without much effort and with less than 400 followers. Check out their unique take on Instagram verification here, they also have a completely unorthodox approach to gaining more followers.
Your Instagram profile should still list your name, email address and a link to your website
You should make it as easy for Instagram to verify it’s you as possible. If there are other accounts that can easily get mixed up with yours (whether as coincidence or on purpose) this is the way you let Instagram know yours is the real one. Help them in their quest of making sure the «Instagram experience stays authentic»!
Gain (real, flesh and blood) followers
Black hat practices like buying followers won’t pay off in the long run, so you have to do your share of work. Verified or not, gaining followers is a goal in itself, so you might just as well start. If you’re fairly new to Instagram, that also means starting to follow people so they can follow you in turn. Once you start getting steady organic Instagram growth, you’ll also start gaining imitators. Take advantage of this to get ahold of the ever elusive verified badge, because with a bit of luck, Instagram will want to lead followers to the right person, and so do you.
Don’t ever buy followers! It’s not something you can hide and Instagram is extremely careful with its verification process. Buying followers is more likely to get you blacklisted than get you closer to your goal.
Forge friendships with verified accounts
Admittedly, this is not easy. But similar to Twitter, having a verified account mentioned in your bio is bound to get you some points. So if you’re in luck to get associated with a brand or a business that’s already verified, show it off. Or simply, reach out to verified members, get a collab or a guest appearance with a verified influencer if you can — that will be beneficial to your business in multiple ways!
Make sure your have an Instagram business account
Instagram greatly favors brands and personas who are doing paid promotion.
Spend money on advertising
This is the advantage big brands have when it comes to Instagram verification — big budgets to spend on advertising. Connections with Facebook and Instagram don’t hurt either. But even if you’re not running ads on a large scale, having some in definitely helps — it means you’re not only a user — you’re a paying customer.
Buying a verification badge
The exclusivity of the badge has attracted some shady practices, and there’s a black market of sorts where Instagram employees have been selling badges through middlemen and charging up to $ 15,000 for a verified account. There are agencies who do this for you, but bottom line is you have to have an account that’s worth the while. You can read the article on it by Mashable, but a word of caution. This is by no means a legitimate way to get an Instagram verification badge, and even if you think there was nothing more worthwhile to do for your business with up to 15 thousand dollars, Instagram has really started actively weeding out such practices and firing employees suspected of this activity all over the place.
Reach out to Instagram reps
A legit way to do it would be to reach out to a rep ask about advertising opportunities. The goal of this is not bribery, but to create a relationship with a rep based on inquiring to learn more about ad products. If you are persistent, yet empathetic about the volume of requests Instagram reps receive your account might actually be considered.
Final thoughts on getting your account verified on Instagram
All taken into account, it has become really difficult for small businesses to get verified, especially ones that are only now emerging. If you are one of them, chances are you don’t have a lot of resources and dollars to splurge on running ads, and are only now starting to work on getting a following. For you my friend, getting that little blue badge of honor might be a tricky endeavour, considering that Instagram verification might be the most exclusive club of all. But if you’re not one to take no for an answer, we hope that you’ll use the tips we’ve provided to your best advantage.
Sign up to Amplifr and connect your Instagram profiles to see if their effectiveness is meeting your expectations.
The pros and cons of trying to verify your Instagram account
- Possibly being rewarded with more engagement by Instagram’s algorithm;
- Getting early access to new monetization oriented features;
- Inspiring trust within the community, because they’ll know you’re the real thing;
- Fending off impostor accounts
- There is no application form, you’ll have to do your best and hope that Instagram moderators will notice you;
- There is no instant solution, you have to work your way up and get a decent following;
- There is no guarantee that your effort will bear fruit with verification.
I hope we’ve covered the subject of Twitter and Instagram verification with sufficient detail and that they’ll prove of assistance if you decide to give it a try for yourself. If by any chance you’ve managed to get your hands on the little jems, by all means, share your experience! It’ll be great to learn what worked for other people and what didn’t! Also, feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have on the subject — as always, we’d love to get the discussion going!