After getting tons of emails asking how our Instagram accounts (@shopify_stockroom and @janelee16) got verified, we decided to publish this blog post explaining why we believe we got verified and how we think Instagram decides who to verify.
The Blue Verification Tick on Instagram
When it comes to social media marketing in 2017, it seems like almost anything can be bought. Facebook is now over a decade old, and even Instagram is well past its infancy as a social platform—existing long enough for users to cleverly figure out different ways to ‘game’ the system. Some followers (read: bots) can be bought for pennies, with the ability to have these followers act like humans, liking and commenting on your photos, coming at an added cost.
However, there is still one elusive status symbol that remains un-purchasable, and therefore highly coveted: The verified badge.
This badge is usually found sidled up next to the handles of celebrities or well known global brands like Nike and Lululemon. Since these badges are handed out on an individual basis by moderators at Instagram, it is impossible to pay for one or fool an algorithm into thinking you are worthy of verifying.
“A verified badge is a check that appears next to an Instagram account's name in search and on the profile. It means that Instagram has confirmed that this is the authentic account for the public figure, celebrity or global brand it represents.”
So, given these facts, what would you say are the chances that our own account, with less than 400 followers could get verified?
At the time of verification our account had roughly 311 subscribers and 8 posts. What’s even more shocking, is that the most recent post was from July 2016—making the account inactive for almost 5 months!
3 Steps to Get Your Own Account Verified on Instagram
There are hundreds of articles written online attempting to demystify the verification process, giving step by step instructions on how to get your account verified. All of these guides reinforce three points of relevance that Instagram looks for—having a huge following, being active and representing a celebrity— all of which were untrue for us, and we still got verified.
Based on our experience I can tell you that a lot of what is written online about getting verified is mostly speculation and not grounded in truth or experience. Having been verified, we have a unique lens into the experience and can tell you what we believe Instagram—and other platforms like Twitter and Facebook— look for when choosing who to verify.
Here are the three key factors we’ve identified as reasons why we were verified. If you follow these three steps we believe you can have a way higher shot at getting verified without being a celebrity, based on our own experience.
1. Don’t get big on Instagram first
This also applies to whatever platform you are trying to get verified on, be it Twitter, Facebook or Youtube. Apparently even Tinder has verified users now, too! Whichever platform is your goal, you need to work on building your presence somewhere else. We believe that Jane’s YouTube videos—although only amassing between 1,000-15,000 views each—was what led to us being verified on Instagram.
There is reasoning behind this. If you build your brand on Instagram, collecting thousands of followers over a long period of time, this is where people will know you from. You can be easily found on that platform and it is unlikely someone with a similar name could be mistaken for you. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a high priority for Instagram to verify you. After all, Instagram even explains that verification is a process of improving the user experience:
“We want to make sure that people in the Instagram community can easily find the authentic people and brands they want to follow.”
If you don’t have thousands of followers, and your account is not the main place your brand lives, verification would be a good way Instagram can help people find you.
2. Gain notoriety on parallel platforms
What are parallel platforms? Social media marketers will recognize that there are unspoken lines drawn between users on certain platforms and others that bread the same kind of users with similar demographics and content styles.
For instance, Twitter is heavily associated with news and politics, so you are more likely to see verified accounts from journalists, media commentators, and people involved in news stories. A great example of this is Ken Bone, who got verified on Twitter after his appearance at the 2016 presidential debate went viral.
Similar lines exist between Instagram-Youtube and Musically-(formerly)Vine. Once Jane’s videos reached a certain number of views on YouTube (remember—it was only 10k average views, not something unachievable by the average person), it was in Instagram’s best interest to verify our accounts, since users who spend time on YouTube will likely be searching for the Instagram accounts of the personalities they watch.
3. Position yourself at risk of getting impersonated
This point is taken straight from Instagram’s own declaration of how to get verified. They stress over and over that verification is done not only to make the user experience better, but also to stop people from impersonating others:
"Accounts representing well-known figures and brands are verified because they have a high likelihood of being impersonated."
A verified badge means Instagram knows you are who you say you are and wants to help it’s users build trust that they are in fact are following the real @shopify_stockroom, not some imitator who could end up spamming you with illegitimate content you weren’t looking for.
Your Instagram page should still list your name, email address and a link to your website so that Instagram can verify it is you, but you should not aim to be the first profile that shows up when users search for your name on Instagram. It is beneficial to keep a low profile, and therefore be at risk of getting impersonated, if you want to be verified.
One important factor in our story of being verified, that I can not pass over without comment is our relationship to Shopify. The @Shopify account is a verified Instagram handle, and their YouTube following is in the +70k range. I cannot discount this as a factor in the verification process.
However, it still remains unlikely that this alone was reason for verifying Jane and The Stockroom’s accounts. It was most likely a combination of a lot of factors and a little bit of luck that did it.
The most important takeaway from this experience is that verification is not reserved for celebrities and other elites. It is possible to get verified with only a moderate following and little notoriety, and our experience is a great example of how other, lesser known factors can get you verified.