Any time spent on Twitter or Facebook will inevitably lead you to find an account with a blue checkmark beside it. You probably also know that this means that the account has been verified as authentic by the two social media giants. Other sites, like Vine (which is owned by Twitter), and Pinterest are also taking the time to verify accounts; and it is likely that Instagram will soon follow suit.
What it means
There are largely only two types of verified accounts on social media '- for public figures, and for popular brands. The verification is necessary in order to prevent fraud, and to protect the integrity of the person, company, or corporation whose name is being used. After all, this is the Internet we're talking about. People make outrageous claims every day, and are believed, hiding behind the anonymity of the Web. That checkmark is a mighty weapon against a lot of potentially bad people.
Imagine, for instance, that you are a fan of a certain celebrity. That celebrity has a lot of fan pages on Facebook, but one page purports to be the personal page of this celebrity. You could Friend this person, even chat with this person! It's so exciting! Imagine a really famous person taking the time to really get to know you! If you want a personal autograph, all you have to do is give a credit card number, and one will be sent right to you!
This happens. Often. And, as you can imagine, there are other sinister exchanges taking place, as well. Facebook and Twitter, by authenticating that the owner of an account is either the actual individual or a legal representative of the person whose name is on the account, is performing a service to the fan, and to the public figure.
How accounts get authenticated
This service, however, is entirely discretionary on the part of the social media provider. There are no official channels by which authentication is granted. Usually, a public figure or national brand must acquire a significant number of followers to be considered for the checkmark. They also need to have an official website associated with their social media account. Pinterest only requires the website URL. Always post your website URL on your social media accounts!
Some public figures actually plead for the seal of authenticity. Earlier this year, Michael Dorn (best known to sci-fi fans as Worf on Star Trek, TNG) implored his friends and followers to aid him in getting the seal of approval, even though he'd been on Twitter for several years. Eventually he received it, but only after his efforts earned him considerably more followers.
Jackie McMullen, a columnist for ESPN, had a fake Twitter account in her name for a very long time. A significant number of colleagues and sports figures followed this account under the mistaken belief that it was authentic. It was only when a fellow writer chastised her in person for never responding to tweets that she even learned of the bogus account. Although the ersatz McMullen ceased writing, the account remained on Twitter for years.
Why you should care
This is all about branding, and whether you are a major player or a humble brick and mortar small business, protecting your good name on the World Wide Web should be important to you. You may never have the number of followers on social media to warrant that precious blue checkmark, but even a handful of followers means that you matter to them, as they matter to you. Pay attention to them, and be vigilant about what is being said about you and your business in social media.
Contact us if you'd like to learn more about Social Media Marketing, Social Media Managment, or Branding.