Trust online: why verification matters

Phone displaying Twitter sign up screen lying on a café table

At the end of 2020 Twitter began overhauling its verification process with a view to launching the new and improved version early this year. It’s a move that’s long overdue and will improve trust between organisations and their audiences by defining what verification means, who is eligible and why some accounts might lose verification.

So why is this important? Verification has been around for a long time. At its core, verification is meant to prove that influential accounts are who they say they are by marking them with a blue tick to easily show they’re a trusted source. Over the years Twitter’s verification process became outdated leading to it being on hold for three years, combine that with the fact that trust online is generally low across the board and this new process couldn’t come soon enough. 

Most importantly Twitter’s new policies pave the way for accounts being able to apply for verification in a structured and fair way – something that hasn’t been possible for a number of years now.

Should verification matter to your brand?

Being able to trust the authenticity of an account on social media is a bare minimum expectation and the reliability of verification should matter to us all. 

But does that mean your account should be verified? For many organisations the answer is yes but it’s important to remember that every platform has different criteria for becoming verified and organisations have a responsibility to closely review that criteria before deciding whether they should aim for verification or not. 

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re an active and influential individual, brand or organisation verification is something you should look into (we’ll look at this in more detail later in this post) – it allows audiences to differentiate you from fake accounts, making you reliable, protecting your brand and building trust. But when it comes to trust, verification is only one part of the puzzle – being transparent, responsible, authentic and updating regularly are all things you can do to build trust with your audience.

What’s changing?

The headline changes in Twitter’s policy on verification include more defined categories on who can apply for verification and less stringent requirements for profile information as well as new guidelines on when an account may lose verified status.

To receive the coveted blue tick, your account must be ‘authentic, notable, and active’ so consistently publishing high quality, trustworthy content which is relevant to your audience is key. It must also be a ‘complete account’ which means it must have either a verified email address or phone number, a profile image and a display name. 

It’s important to note that if you change your account name (@handle) or your account becomes inactive or incomplete you may lose verified status. You may also lose your verified status if the position of your account changes and you no longer meet the criteria or you’re in severe or repeated violation of Twitter’s rules.  

If you’re itching to secure a blue tick for your account you’ll need to wait a little longer yet. Twitter will open applications for new verifications in ‘early 2021’ so keep an eye out for updates on when that may be. However, 20 January 2021 is the date that Twitter will start revoking verification from inactive accounts and those that don’t meet the new criteria or have previously violated Twitter’s rules. 

To wrap things up…

Trust in their social media channels is something all communicators should be thinking about and verification goes some way to helping instil trust. From platforms like Twitter to the audiences and the brands in between, we should always be stress testing sources and working to tame the wild west of social media. 

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter should be leading the way but unfortunately the damage has been done and trust online is low. Twitter’s overhaul of its verification process is a good start but we as practitioners also have a responsibility to gain our audience’s trust and give them a reason to keep it. 

If you’re interested in applying for verification or are looking for a new, strategic approach to your social media get in touch with our friendly, expert team.