There is one elusive social media status symbol that remains unpurchasable, and therefore highly coveted and immensely valuable: The verified badge.
This badge is usually found nestled next to the handles of celebrities or well-known global brands like Nike and Lululemon.
Since these badges are handed out on a case-by-case basis by moderators at Instagram, it is impossible to pay for one or fool an algorithm into thinking you are worthy of verifying.
Instagram’s own page on verified badges reaffirms the assumed impossibility of those without Kardashian for their last name getting verified:
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?
Well, on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, we (@stockroom_shopify and @janelee16) woke up to a shiny blue star of verification next to our Instagram names.
At the time of verification, our account had roughly 311 followers 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!
4 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 four 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 a reasoning behind this. If you build your brand on Instagram, implementing hashtag research, 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 part of their 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 associations between users on certain platforms that breed 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 and YouTube, and Musically and 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 tip 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 its users build the 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 don't necessarily need to be the first profile that shows up when users search for your name on Instagram. In fact, it may even be beneficial to have a low profile, and therefore be at risk of getting impersonated in order to get verified.
4. Request to be verified
The final step is to make the request to get verified on Instagram. You can do this in the mobile app.
Simply go to Settings > Account > Request Verification and fill out the necessary information:
- Your full name
- What you are commonly "Known as" (i.e. your brand name)
- Your "Category" or account type (ranges from Blogger/Influencer to Business/Brand)
- A photo of your government-issued ID.
Keep in mind that this submits your account for consideration, and does not necessarily guarantee that you will be approved. However, if you follow the above steps, you can increase your chances.
Getting verified on Instagram
One important factor to consider in our story is our relationship to Shopify. The @Shopify account is a verified Instagram handle, and their YouTube following is in the +70k range. We cannot discount this as a factor in the verification process.
However, it still remains unlikely that this alone was the reason for verifying Jane and The Stockroom’s accounts. It was most likely a combination of a lot of factors a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work and planning.
The most important takeaway from this experience is that verification is not reserved for celebrities and other big names. It is possible to get verified with only a moderate following, and our experience is a great example of the lesser-known factors that can help get you verified on Instagram.