Instagram’s blue tick roll out is a step in the right direction for authenticity online

As Aussies become the first in the world to be able to apply for verification on Instagram, Social Bakers CEO Yuval Ben-Itzhak argues it's a step in the right direction for winning back trust online.

Social media platforms have been under the microscope since possible interference in the United States election first came to light. While this was an unfortunate way to expose flaws in online systems we use to communicate on a daily basis, it opened up a necessary discussion on transparency. Since then, social platforms have turned conversation into action, taking steps to eliminate virtual wrongdoing.

Similar to Twitter’s blue badge, Instagram has released its own verification system. The blue tick is currently available to notable public figures, celebrities, global brands and other entities. Instagram’s update is a great example of a relatively small change that can have great results.

A simple check mark at the top of a profile can communicate to users that the profile is exactly what it seems – no strings attached. Updates like these put the user-experience first, which helps create an authentic experience across the board – and that’s exactly what social media is all about.

It’s no secret that authenticity is key to all social media content and interactions. With Instagram surpassing the billion-user milestone, more users are demanding more verification filters to ensure that the content they are consuming comes from credible and trustworthy sources. We can expect that as the blue tick becomes more widely available, we will see it used for different purposes. Influencers will likely use the symbol as a way to identify legitimate businesses and vice versa.

Instagram has become a hub for collaboration and partnerships, which strengthens the need and desire for transparency. However, developing a verification system is only half of the battle. While the system is a great initiative and unarguably 10 steps in the right direction, Instagram will need to continuously evaluate each profile as they can quickly become malicious.

With the sheer scale of Instagram profiles, it’s possible that the frequency of evaluations could pose a threat to this new system. If this happens to be the case, one solution could be to provide the date and time of the last badge review. This way users have an idea of how recent the profile in question earned their blue badge.

Instagram isn’t the only platform stepping up to the plate. Twitter has become more vigilant about eliminating illegitimate activity on their platform, with plans to remove all fake accounts. The move shows Twitter’s commitment to delivering a pollution-free environment for both marketers and users.

At first glance, dwindling numbers for any social media platform can look harsh, which is why it’s pretty admirable that Twitter is taking the lead – favouring authenticity over vanity.

Fortunately, most brands are on board with Twitter’s stance on reducing the number of fake profiles on the platform. And why wouldn’t they be? While it may come as a surprise for brands to see a huge drop in Twitter followers, it’s actually extremely beneficial. Removing dead weight from their following, increases their chances of acquiring meaningful interactions. It gives them the ability to rebuild a loyal audience that they can count on. It’s true that numbers look good, but in this case they’re only for show.

While it’s important for brands and influencers to have a solid follower base, the key here is quality – not quantity. Authenticity is increasingly pervasive when it comes to social media marketing. Fake accounts lead to inflated reach and performance numbers which aren’t helping brands or influencers engage in genuine conversations with their audiences.

There is no clear cut answer that can be prescribed to all social media platforms. Seeing as they have different business models, we can expect that each channel will experiment with different solutions. We’re at the beginning of a new era that will indefinitely evolve as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t. What we’re seeing now, are just the first advancements in online transparency, we can expect to see more in the not-so-far future.

Yuval Ben-Itzhak is CEO at Socialbakers.


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