Verification – Is there a business model?

Everyone in social media knows about verification. It is that little check mark people get next to their name, however these are most likely to be celebrities, large well known products and people with contacts. The number of verified accounts on Instagram worldwide for Instagram in percentage terms in just below 1%. To get verified you need to meet a series of requirements, which vary depending on the social media platform you are operating on. Getting verified does not only mean that you have a tick next to your name, it brings along many other benefits that people looking to grow are searching for.

These benefits include, trustworthiness, increased brand awareness, better SERP results on the app, early access to special features, connection to other social media accounts and overall increased exposure. Getting verified is by no means easy, that is why agencies and people try and grow a business out of it. Partly legal and illegal.

The most important factors to be verified include regular posting and followers. Once you reach a certain number of these, Instagram allocates resources to analyze your account and proceeds to determine whether its quality and popularity levels meet the requirements to be verified.

What sort of businesses arise from verifying?

From the research that we have carried out, we have managed to identify 3 main ways of making money through verification and the possibilities around it. 

(1) A monthly increase in followers through subscription.

This area has recently begun to get exploited. Most of the companies that focus on growing your account are most likely scams in the sense that you are not provided with “real” and organic followers. As a matter of fact, all your followers are created by bots and are completely inorganic. Providing you with real followers would indeed create a breach in privacy and most likely identity theft. Hence the only way of creating that growth is through bots, that will follow you but will not normally do another sort of tasks like visiting your page, commenting on posts and liking them.

Users and pretty much everyone on social media have realised the terrible investment it is to buy followers and get these instantly. This is why others have started to provide similar services that promise advice and growth in terms of followers by paying a monthly subscription fee. For instance, InstaBoom “Targeted Instagram growth”, is a website that premises follower growth on Instagram in an organic and segmented way. They offer weekly, monthly and trimestral packages that have a small reduction in price per follower as these increase the larger the package. For their standard monthly package, they charge 79€, and they promise an increase in your follower of 1.500-3.000 followers, that are real, and provided by their so called Motor Artificial Intelligence. Apart from that they provide you with strategic comments and recommendations. 

This almost seems too good to be true right? We currently have no experience with these sort of page personally, but we have had clients that previously bough similar packages and did, in fact, gain the promised amount of followers. However, these happen to be “bot” created and do not interact with the user´s profile at all. From our point of view, this business model to help users reach the verification status is too risky and might lead to plenty of unsatisfied clients if it happens to be that the new followers only follow the account, but do not create and run any further interactions with the client’s profile. 

(2) Smaller users advertising on a verified account

This business model does not involve growing the user like the previous one. However, it still requires basic social media optimization (SMO) skills as you will need to grow an account and aim to get it verified. This will mean that you will be able to promote other brands, accounts, companies, products through your account thanks to your large follower base. Instagram accounts “sell” posts and shootouts in their “stories” section for a hefty price but really depends on the number of followers and the credibility of the account. 

As for a personal opinion, this is by no means easy. It can take months or even years to build a sustainable and large Instagram account before even getting verified. It is a long road, however, if done with the necessary optimization skills, the process will be shorter and more enjoyable. Once you are up there, people will pay you to promote their interests on your page.

(3) “Flipping” Accounts

Similarly, to the last business model we just discussed related to growing your account to a verified level to use it as an advertising platform for other users and corporations, this model has a similar interest. The aim of this model is to grow the account, get it verified  and sell it. Why would you sell it? On Instagram for example, you are allowed to change pretty much everything within the account, including the name, all the posts… within minutes, and make it look like the account has been there forever. Reports conclude that selling a 1 million follower account, which is more common than you think, can reach up to 25.000$. Many accounts keep the same name, but change owner more times that you could ever think off. 

Is this legal? It really depends on the terms and conditions of the site. Right now the big deal is Instagram, where flipping accounts is directly against their terms and conditions, and they have the right to delete and ban the account at any given moment. There are no reports of penalties including fines and jail time, but just bear in mind that it is a risk and if Instagram believes that there is some sort of account selling going on, the account will be deleted.

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