Coveted blue tick is up for grabs; experts share implications on industry

Paid verification

The coveted blue tick might lose its exclusivity and credibility as social media platforms are making the process of verification paid. Social Samosa speaks to digital agencies to find out the pros and cons of paid verification.

The coveted blue ticks, which brands and content creators chased for years, can now be bought. Following the footsteps of Twitter’s Elon Musk, Meta is testing verified subscription for Facebook and Instagram, with a monthly charge for users who want to reap premium benefits. 

Lately, social media platforms have found themselves in troubled waters. With their revenue plunging and triggering multiple layoffs. In an obvious attempt, platforms are opening up new streams of income. Apart from that, Meta claimed that it is trying to save accounts from getting hacked with its new verification plan. 

Social media platforms are also offering added layers of security to verified users, which was earlier considered sacrosanct by digital platforms – almost a foundational pillar. Now, they are passing the cost to users. 

Meta-verified subscribers can get ‘proactive account monitoring for impersonators who might target people with growing online audiences.’ Twitter, too, made SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA) a premium feature. 

So, verified users will get more visibility and security for the services, which were previously available for free or with minimum fees. 

Social Samosa speaks to digital agencies to find out the pros and cons of paid verification.

As per Meta’s own blog, “Some of the top requests we get from creators are for broader access to verification and account support, in addition to more features to increase visibility and reach.”

Its vision is to build a subscription offering that’s valuable to everyone, including creators, businesses and community at large.

Added Security

Sharing how brands can benefit from the new subscription model, Vibhor Mehrotra, Chief Digital Officer, Zenith said, “While the forum is divided upon pros and cons for the paid subscription model but in my view it is an evolution in product offering and it is currently like an additional stream of revenue. From brands perspective, it will ensure that no squatters and spammers are able to hack the brand identity on these social platforms and the brand can continue their authentic conversations across stakeholders.”

Brands often pay an extra fee to boost their reach on social media platforms. Similarly, Anjali Malthankar, National Strategy Director, Tonic Worldwide said that paid verification would work like earned Vs paid PR.

“This will give startups and small-scale brands a new ‘reach’ model. This also has a potential to give some relief from ‘fake’ bots and untraceable trolls,” said Malthankar.

This could also open new doors for small creators.

“I see it as a great opportunity for creators who are looking to build their careers on these platforms, they get access to something that verifies their identity and their work through a badge. Until now, it’s very difficult for a smaller creator or someone not in the press to be able to have a blue tick and hopefully this should help them get a bit of authenticity,” said Rajni Daswani, Director- Digital Marketing, SoCheers.

Need For Stringent Guidelines To Prevent Misuse

In the public discourse, blue ticks signify social importance, meaning it helps them differentiate well-known personalities from impersonators and ensure a sense of exclusivity and authenticity. 

Twitter had also acknowledged how consumers perceive verification back in 2017.

After Elon Musk’s takeover and making verification a paid service, Twitter was swamped with verified bots and fake accounts. Brands were also affected. A fake (verified) Nintendo account had Tweeted an image of Mario flipping the bird.

So, there’s a need for stringent guidelines to ensure impersonators don’t take over the socio-verse. 

Mitesh Kothari, Co-founder and CCO, White Rivers Media said, “To counteract Apple’s privacy push, platforms are finding ways to expand their revenue line, and charging money on verification and introducing subscription models might be a few. Now that these blue ticks are purchasable, guidelines must be set to prevent misuse.”

Kothari said that it’d be an investment for creators but it may also make it easier for anyone willing to hand over a certain amount of money to maximize their social presence. 

So, it will eventually come down to how the policies and procedures are laid out to avail the verification, said Kothari, apart from simply paying for it.

An Addition, Not A Replacement

The original process of awarding the coveted blue tick was quite comprehensive, including multiple layers of cross-checking. Due to this, blue ticks gave a sense of authenticity. Now, it would be a status symbol. It would also mean a change in social media platform’s algorithm. Paid verified users would get more visibility. 

In an interview, Musk said that you will have to scroll really far to see unverified users.

If users can simply earn the badge of authenticity in exchange for money, will it erode consumers’ trust in verification? 

“If the new $12 subscription comes as an addition to this process and not a replacement, it’ll still maintain credibility and the consumers will continue to trust the process,” said Shradha Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, Grapes, adding that it is too soon to judge. 

Sharing how it might have a positive impact, Agarwal added, “It will also help many new creators and smaller businesses gain more visibility and get more benefits out of the social media platforms.”

So far, it has been unclear whether this will prevent impersonation on Facebook and Instagram for fraudulent accounts that don’t choose to pay for verification.

Consumer Perception Might Change

The idea of social media was to make information more accessible and now, the rich will get their voices heard yet again.

In a radio session, CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg had shared why he started Facebook. 

“I looked at the internet… You could find music; you could find news; you could find information, but you couldn’t find and connect with the people that you cared about, which as people is actually the most important thing. So that seemed like a pretty big hole that needed to get filled,” said Mark. 

With the new paid verification system in place, the social media landscape is changing. It is the beginning of a new era where affluent people might take over the socioverse. 

Keerthi R Kumar, Business Head-South, FoxyMoron [Zoo Media] said, “If verification badges are available for purchase, it might alter how consumers view verified profiles. A validated badge used to be seen as a symbol of legitimacy, exclusivity, and authenticity; but, if it can be purchased, its worth and status may be diminished. Users may consider verified badges to be less significant and credible, which could reduce trust in verified profiles.”

Kumar said that there will be one advantage of paid verification. It would make the procedure simpler and help decrease the amount of fake/spammy accounts. 

“On the other hand, users who can afford to pay for the process have an unfair edge if verification badges may be acquired. It could feel unfair on the platform as a result of this,” added Kumar. 

Sharing more cons of introducing paid verification, Malthankar said, “From a mass adoption POV data security could be one concern people might have. There is a threat of false authentication for scammers who are capable of forgery. It does reduce the values the consumers might have associated with the blue tick which are achievement, success, celebration. Anything that can be bought loses its value in the case of profiles.”

Good, bad or ugly, the face of social media is changing as we know it. Whether paid verification will cure social media’s biggest problem of flawed security and rising impersonation, only time will tell. For now, experts are seeing the change with a glass-full approach and are hoping to see more guidelines in place. 

Meta Verified is currently launched only in Australia and New Zealand but is expected to roll out in India soon, which is one of Meta’s biggest markets.