The Bassackwardness Of Being Verified On Twitter, Facebook & Google+

As we await for Google+ to figure out however it wants to handle verified accounts, it’s worth reflecting how Google already has a verification system in place that’s been lost and how Twitter’s supposedly “closed” program continues on in stealth mode. Why can’t either of these companies get it right? And why can’t Facebook even try?

Twitter & Verification

Let’s start with Twitter. Cast your mind back to June 2009. After growing complaints that it was hard to know who was real, including from celebrities tired of being impersonated, Twitter launched Verified Accounts.

These accounts all carry a blue checkmark symbol, a sign that Twitter vouches that the person or company using them really has been verified to be that person. You’ll see it to the right of William Shatner’s name, below:

Want to be verified? Good luck with that. The general public is out of luck. As ClickZ noted last October, Twitter quietly discontinued its public program. The page at Twitter about Verified Accounts says:

What kinds of accounts get verified?

Verification is used to establish authenticity for accounts who deal with identity confusion regularly on Twitter. Verified Accounts must be public and actively tweeting.

How do I get my account verified?

This program is currently closed to the public. This means we are not able to accept public requests for verification.

Why is the Beta verification program currently closed?

Twitter’s public beta version of account verification is no longer available. After a long period of manual testing, we’ve closed public applications. We have removed our public-facing verification request form. In the meantime, we’re still verifying some trusted sources, such as our advertisers and partners.

In short, if you’re a celebrity, and Twitter somehow takes notice, you get verified. Alternatively, if you’re a Twitter advertiser or partner, you get verified. Everyone else, stuff it.

Better Ways

It doesn’t have to be like this. Twitter could easily allow for everyone to be verified in a variety of ways. For one, it could use a system similar to how Google allows site owners to verify their accounts for Google Webmaster Central. Put some code on your site, and if Twitter sees it, then the Twitter account could be verified to that site.

That’s an incredibly easy way for anyone with a public-facing site to link the two. Indeed, Twitter’s own advice for those trying to show their accounts on Twitter are “real” is to do something similar, to link from their official sites to their Twitter accounts.

That’s good advice, but how about a little give back, Twitter? If people are linking over, why not come up with some type of “Site Verified” moniker?

Google Profiles & Verification

Twitter could also borrow another idea from Google, that of verified Google Profiles. Google allowed for profiles to have verified email addresses or “names” in a variety of ways, such as getting a PIN through your cell phone or using a credit card. This explains more:

I used to have both of these listed on my Google Profile, as this screenshot from April 2009 shows:

Google+ Broke Verification; Facebook Does Nothing

That was lost in the wake of Google+. Google, in its rush to “field trial” its invite-only Facebook rival, broke the verification of who knows how many people, regardless of whether they were in Google+ or not.

Meanwhile, we now have the irony that more celebrities are joining Google+, along with fake celebrities that are turning up, and Google’s apparently still figuring out how to handle them. Poor old William Shatner joined, only to have his profile closed temporarily.

Over at CNN, Mark Milian details this as part of good article that looks at some ways Google’s trying to resurrect verification. He also covers that when it comes to Facebook, there’s no real attempt at verification at all.

Get It Together, Social Networks!

The mess with Google+ is pretty absurd. It’s not 2007. It’s 2011, and launching a new social network without verification of celebrities, not to mention allowing for “brand pages,” simply doesn’t wash — field trial or not.

Then again, if Facebook doesn’t have it, perhaps that’s too harsh. But really, Facebook should gain some verification. I’d like to see that happen.

As for Google, it ought to fix what it broke with the old verification system, which would give mere mortals the ability to verify themselves, if they want. If Google wants to accelerate the process for the celebs coming online, that’s great — that’s useful to help avoid confusion. But the existing system they have and broke could be used to do that.

As for Twitter, same thing. Keep on verifying those celebrities that are coming online. We need that type of clarity. But tear down that verification wall and allow anyone an easy way to verify themselves, if they so choose.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Features: General | Google: +1 | Google: Accounts & Profiles | Google: Google+ | Top News | Twitter


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Steven Livingstone

    Hi Danny. I have run for a few years now and verification isn’t that simple and in fact works differently depending on whether you are a well known individual or not.

    There is no real easy way to do automated verification for the people (or brands) who really need it – or rather those who could make the front page if it were pronounced official and was being used for something illicit. Using a web site is one way but depending on the level of verification needed, not always the easiest … in fact in many cases it’s hard enough verifying the official sites themselves.

    I remember when Twitter launched verified accounts i said publicly that it would be a very difficult thing for them to crack.

    There are options – i am staying an interested party – but it remains to see whether any of the major social networks will look at them.

    I do wonder whether there would be interest in low level verification versus verification for well known people. I have spoken with a number of well known tech people and got the impression they weren’t interested as many list their official social profiles on their own web sites. Be interested in feedback on this.

  • S.Rippetoe

    Good luck on getting a verified account with Twitter.

  • FPL

    Agree with the comment that Facebook should also have a verification system. Facebook did clean up a bunch of fake accounts when they converted most of them to Community pages recently.

    At , we’ve been maintaining a directory of official accounts of brands & celebrities on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare (and plan to add more YouTube and add Google Plus accounts soon) and the best way we could verify is to look up their official sites manually and see if they have links to their official accounts.


  • TimmyTime

    Danny, it’s too expensive, that’s why. Tech companies for obvious reasons don’t want to hire people to go back and forth with faxing passports or DL.

    Hell, didn’t Google release a cell phone with just an email address as support?

  • C.M.

    Not to keep harping on Google’s 2nd attempt at a social networking site, but little things like verifying profiles and having business profiles seem like aspects Google should have had figured out before they launched. It seems like Google is acting as if they are the first social media site to exist. If we look back at history you can see the issues that other sites have come across and dealt with. There is no excuse to be in shock that you have tens or thousands of businesses wanting business accounts and celebrities who do not want to be impersonated. In my eyes, these are foreseeable problems that could have been addressed before Google+ was launched.

  • Nithin Jawali

    Only @DannySullivan can keep tab of little details like this. Even I was thinking, my verified Google profile just went poof after G+ arrived.

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