Art by Adriana Campos
In a world where fake news spreads rapidly and the distinction between reality and fiction becomes blurred, social media platforms have implemented measures to verify the identities of individuals and influential brands. The aim is to curb the dissemination of misinformation, which can be as deceptive as a counterfeit music festival lineup. One such measure is the highly sought-after “verified” badge, commonly represented by a blue checkmark. However, is this the most effective solution to our worries about the trustworthiness of the content we encounter?
On Twitter (now controversially referred to as “X”, but that’s another story), the number of verified accounts has grown from 5,000 in 2010 to over 424,000. This leads us to ponder whether there will come a point when everyone is verified, or if the platform will offer content authenticity as an inherent value without relying solely on badges. While nothing is certain, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that come with seeking verification.
The importance of verification in ensuring the authenticity of information.
To understand the pros and cons of verification, it’s worth looking back at where it all began. One significant turning point was the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal. While that case highlighted a larger issue pertaining data privacy and the use of personal information, it also sparked discussions about the spread of misinformation. Among other things, Cambridge Analytica utilized personal data to create targeted political advertisements and present users with tailored messages—amplifying content from dubious sources in the process.
The scandal emphasized the need for stricter verification measures to ensure credibility of information. While it’s part of a broader effort that includes education, fact-checking and privacy policies, verification plays a crucial role in distinguishing legitimate sources of information from fake profiles.
More recently, there have been other instances where verification has been employed for positive purposes. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, verified accounts—such as that of the World Health Organization—have been instrumental in ensuring users have access to reliable information during the pandemic. Plus, platforms like Facebook and Twitter partnered with some of these reputable organizations and outlets to append reliable information to related posts.
Similarly, verification plays a role in amplifying and legitimizing the voices of individuals and organizations involved in specific movements. With Black Lives Matter, verification provided a means to distinguish genuine accounts from fake profiles that sought to undermine or misrepresent the movement.
The pros and cons of verification in social media profiles for brands.
All things considered, let's analyze the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining verification in social media profiles. First, let’s begin with the pros.
- It serves as a credibility check. The main benefit of verified accounts is the credibility they bring to social media platforms. In an environment flooded with impostors and anonymous trolls, the blue verification badge is a knight in shining armor, shielding users from fake profiles and misleading information. It is worth mentioning that the phenomenon of virality can sometimes create a false sense of authenticity, but reaching a verified source generally helps halt the dissemination of falsely amplified information.
- It offers VIP access to privileged circles. Having a verified account unlocks a world of exclusive privileges: from accessing restricted features and joining unique communities to enhancing the reach of the content itself (as emphasized by Mr. Musk). For brands and individuals actively engaged in social media, this serves as a ticket to participate in elite conversations. (You can't sit with us!)
- It’s an extension of your business model. Monetizing exclusive responses for verified accounts is just the tip of the iceberg of the controversial add-ons that platforms plan to implement; a glimpse into the future of advertising where verified content and brand safety will be paid for.
We are witnessing creators and brands transforming their content into valuable assets, elevating its quality, but we also know that social proof has a direct correlation with increased purchases compared to content that lacks authenticity.
Now, we cannot discuss the benefits of verification in this era without considering the disadvantages. For example:
- It can turn into a Game of Thrones of verification. In most platforms, obtaining the coveted blue badge is no easy feat; and if it’s achieved through payment, there’s no guarantee that platforms won’t revoke it at some point. An uncomfortable truth is that the verification system has been criticized for being exclusive and favoring established figures. There have also been cases where verification has been granted to fake or parody accounts, causing chaos within the network, as exemplified by Disney.
- At times, the unverifiable is verified. The blue badge is not an infallible shield against deception. Recent incidents have underscored the vulnerability of verified accounts to misinformation. For example, a fake image of an explosion at the Pentagon, shared by verified Twitter accounts, caused confusion and even triggered a stock market downturn.
- Advertisers missing in action. The possibility for verified accounts to obtain monetary benefits through Twitter ads raises concerns regarding the authenticity of sponsored content. It becomes difficult to distinguish whether a celebrity’s endorsement of a miracle product is genuine or simply the result of Photoshop or AI manipulation.
In conclusion, verification provides a crucial safeguard against identity impersonation and enhances the credibility of brands and influential individuals. However, the verification process can be exclusive, and verified accounts are not immune to the propagation of misinformation. The introduction of ads in replies can bring economic advantages, but it also raises concerns about the authenticity of sponsored content.
Finally, a question that has crossed every marketer’s mind: Does verification have an impact on our metrics? At least for now, the answer is yes. On platforms like Instagram, verified accounts can experience up to 30% more engagement, according to a study encompassing over 6.5 million accounts. However, other platforms like Twitter may show smaller increases. Therefore, dear friends, proceed with caution, as not everything that glitters with a blue verification badge is gold.
And let us not forget, in the tumultuous realm of social media, where truths and falsehoods often intertwine, it is always prudent to approach every tweet and post with a healthy dose of skepticism, a touch of humor and a discerning eye for the truth.
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