MARKETING ON INSTAGRAM Small brands are finding it harder to get verified on Instagram

To many brands, a verification badge on a social media platform represents that they are legitimate businesses. Out of all platforms, a verification badge on Instagram has become the most exclusive. Agency executives say Instagram is only becoming more secretive and selective.

The main way agencies and brands get verified is by proving to a rep their Instagram accounts are being impersonated or are likely to get impersonated, said multiple agencies. Major brands seeking verification can use their size and popularity to prove fake accounts are impersonating their own. Strong connections with Facebook and Instagram and big budgets don’t hurt either. “The easiest way [to get verified] is to, frankly, spend money on advertising,” said Matt Britton, CEO at digital agency Crowdtap.

Small brands, however, cannot as easily demonstrate that other accounts want to steal their identities, and they are finding more and more roadblocks to verification.

The process
Instagram introduced verified badges to brands and celebrities in December 2014 to deter users from impersonating real accounts. Users could apply for verification, just as they would through Facebook or Twitter, according to Britton. But in September 2015, Instagram suddenly started prohibiting users from applying for badges, leaving agencies and brands to go through a rep at the platform. “It’s not currently possible to request or purchase a verified badge,” reads the platform’s current help page.

Allison Brito, associate director of media and marketing at Wondersauce, works with emerging brands on getting verified accounts on Instagram and noticed the process has become even more mysterious and rigid in the past year. She recalled that in early 2016, she contacted her Facebook rep directly without speaking to someone at Instagram when she wanted to get clients verified on both platforms.

“We were told from our Facebook rep that because Facebook and Instagram are the same company, that getting verified on Facebook was the easy way in,” she said. Essentially, because a brand was verified on Facebook meant it was likely the brand would also get verified on Instagram. But an “in” with a rep at Facebook no longer necessarily means a brand can get verified on Instagram, she said. “It’s not necessarily a shoo-in anymore,” said Brito, who is now undergoing the process for a client. “They are talking about the two platforms separately.”

Agencies also claim they are no longer notified whether or not a brand will be verified. Instead, verification badges will randomly appear on accounts, regardless of whether brands are working for them. “It’s like it’s a complete surprise, like, ‘Oh, we woke up one morning, and [the badge] was there,’” said Brito. And rather than taking a few days, agencies said the process can last from a few weeks to a few months.

A status symbol
Being verified on Instagram is of utmost importance for brands, numerous agency executives said. The blue check gives brands credibility in consumers’ eyes, especially now that Instagram users are accustomed to seeing blue badges next to familiar brands. “A user may be less inclined to reach out to a brand that isn’t verified,” said Jill Sherman, svp of social strategy at DigitasLBi.