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Marketers don’t see much value in being verified on Twitter
Being verified doesn’t bring any quantifiable benefits to brands or lead to brands being more active on Twitter, according to four agency execs.
If Twitter decided to end its verification program and erase all the blue checkmarks it’s given out over the years — after pausing the program last week following a public outcry over the organizer behind a white supremacist rally being verified — brands would probably be fine with that, according to agency executives.
“The brand benefits really aren’t that dramatic, and I think most brands could do without it if [Twitter] decided they don’t want to continue the process,” said Lisa Braziel, VP of strategy and special programs at Ignite Social Media.
“I don’t think [being verified on Twitter] makes a brand stand out any more than anyone else or drives equity any more than an unverified account,” said Deep Focus CEO Ken Kraemer.
For brands, being verified on Twitter is like wearing a name tag at a cocktail party: it helps people to know they’re not talking to some random person — and that’s about it. “Giving consumers that kind of trust that they are engaging with the right [account], that’s probably the biggest benefit that brands that we’ve worked with have felt,” said Braziel.
Twitter declined to comment for this article.
Being verified once mattered, but not anymore
When Twitter began verifying accounts in 2009, the distinction was significant. It was easy for people to create accounts imitating a marketer, and many did. So, in the same way that it was important in the 90s and early 2000s for brands to buy their own web domains if only to quash spoofing, on Twitter, brands needed a signifier that theirs was the real deal. That’s why the majority of clients that are on Twitter are verified, said Georgina Goode, VP and strategy director at Havas Media’s Socialyse.
But, while it’s still easy for people to create fake accounts parading as brands on Twitter, spoofing has become less of an issue, making verification less of a need. “I don’t know of any stories of brands being victims recently,” said Kraemer of spoofing. “It’s not something we tend to get asked for,” said Goode of verification. For brands, the value of being verified became further diluted last year after Twitter enabled anyone to apply to have their account verified.
“When they opened up to pretty much everybody [to apply for verification], it really lost that sense of authority. And in terms of value and what it means to our clients, ultimately it doesn’t really matter if you’re verified or not,” said Goode.
No benefit to brands
In the same way that a person’s passport doesn’t get them an upgrade to first class or a discount on airfare, Twitter’s blue checkmark doesn’t get brands more followers or a bargain on their ad buys. All four agency executives interviewed for this article said there is no quantifiable benefit to a brand’s Twitter account sporting a blue checkmark.
“There’s no stated benefit, that’s for sure,” said Kraemer.
“Having that blue badge doesn’t really matter. It certainly wouldn’t help in driving KPIs [key performance indicators] up or any types of metrics,” said Goode.
“Verification never really gave a ton of benefits that brands couldn’t get; most brands were able to get the analytics that Twitter offered through verification from their advertiser access,” said Braziel.
At best, being verified helps when it comes to showing up in Twitter’s search results. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a verified account will always leapfrog an unverified one to appear atop the search results. But among a sea of accounts with similar handles, “having that checkmark beside your name lets you stand out a bit more,” said Braziel. However, she’s quick to add, “I don’t think it’s going to make a measurable impact on [a brand’s] engagement or other types of metrics. And if it does, then it’s going to be so negligible that it’s not really going to be that easy to say us being verified had a huge change in our results.”
No benefit to Twitter
As there is barely any benefit to brands in being verified, so too is there little, if any, benefit to Twitter. Early on, verification seemed like a way for Twitter to grease the skids to get brands to not only tweet but to pay to promote those tweets as ads. In 2012, Ad Age reported that a Twitter sales rep had told a magazine publisher looking to get verified that the publication would first need to spend at least $15,000 to buy ads on Twitter over three months. But that example was more likely an exception than the rule. At least for non-publisher brands, Twitter may have thought marketers would be more likely to advertise on Twitter once they were verified. “From my own experience, none of the brands [that asked to be verified] ever got turned down,” said Periscope’s chief creative officer, Peter Nicholson.
However, being verified does not appear to have led to brands posting more tweets or buying more ads from Twitter. On this point, all four agency execs also agreed.
“I don’t think there’s a correlation” between a brand being verified and then becoming more active on Twitter, either organically or as an advertiser, said Kraemer. Asked whether a correlation exists, Goode’s response: “No.”
Not only has verification not spurred brands to use Twitter any more, it has not stopped them from using Twitter less. While a majority of brands are verified on Twitter, “a majority of brands are actually less involved in Twitter,” said Nicholson.
“Many brands that we see right now are not putting Twitter on their primary list of social networks or channels that they’re focused on. They’re kind of viewing Twitter as a secondary or tertiary channel,” said Braziel. “That’s the real threat. A lot of people are just going to say, ‘I’m not going to pursue verification because what’s the point?’”