Instagram Verification Agency Podcast

An Instagram Verification related interview that focused on all platforms: Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. between agency CEO Adriaan Brits and Odi Ventouri, an in-house social media specialists. 

Social Media Verification Pocast - Meet our Team

Gain an in-depth understanding of Instagram Verification by listening to our latest podcast with the Sitetrail team.

Odi:

Hello and welcome to the social media verification podcast here with Sitetrail. My name is Odi Ventouri, head of social media marketing. Today I will be talking to our CEO Adriaan Brits about the success the company has had in assisting more than 450 influencers to obtain their verification on Instagram, TikTok, Youtube and other channels. The main tactic was to provide ample notability through news appearance backed by authentic journalism. 

Adriaan, I know you will share a lot of PR tactics in this discussion, but to start with, could you please introduce the company and the concept?

Adriaan:

Thanks Odi and hi everyone. We’re using a podcast given that our clients are all scattered around the world in different time zones and I don’t actually have the availability to get to everyone via phone in person. So thanks to our customer audience for using this as a great way to get to know the people who are helping you get things done. 

Sitetrail has been around way before social media verification became a trend: We’re basically the largest platform in the world for editorial news outreach, certainly in the United States too. We get your story in with Google News approved media companies, many who are mainstream news providers. Off course Editorial news is very different from cheap “paid press releases”, because when it is editorial, it is endorsed by the news owners and is published with real journalist profiles who worked on the case. This makes it authentic and trusted by readers who come across the information. 

Odi:

Can you remind our listeners of the history the platform has with influencers?

Adriaan:

We’ve been working hand in hand with influencers and media owners for the last 12 years now. During this time when I worked at Linkedin for a while, I remember the difficulties people faced when accounts were impersonated, but luckily also the smiles on their face when they hit influencer status and popularity. Social media verification has a lot of benefits so it is worth anyone’s time to look into the facts surrounding it. 

We started doing Instagram Verification for Agencies first. They levied a huge markup on our services, hence we decided to assist the public directly with this. Given our strong market position to help influencers do this effectively, we’ve essentially cut out the middleman to deliver the type of value no agency in London or New York could match so far. We are incredibly proud to celebrate the level of achievement we attained with customers so it is great to reflect back on it today. 

Odi: 

Thanks Adriaan. Perhaps you share some insights on the potential value of social media verification and why businesses and individuals do this?

Adriaan:

Instagram is used as a search engine by social shoppers and Facebook shops js a massive new move from the parent company which owns Instagram. So in this regard, I think one of the best examples was the case of a huge branded Jeans company. Their management explained to me that on Google paid search, it could take $5Million over 3 years to command a substantial share of the global market, but the revenue value would exceed $20Million. Even if Instagram provided them with just 10% of that value, it would be an exceptionally good deal if they could spend $200K to obtain verification as it would return $2Million over 5 years. The reality is that they obtained verification based on PR that cost less than $7K.

Off course different entities have their own reasons for taking up verification, but influence can translate directly to revenue which matters a great deal to many clients. 

Odi:

Yes as Adriaan pointed out, we’re dealing with a very wide range of people and organizations who seek verification, I thought sharing some frank insights and advice is the best route to go here. First off, what can you say to people if they ask: “Is Instagram or TikTok Verification for me?” “Should I do this?” 

Adriaan:

Well I think straight-up advice is what we’re known for: The answer is quite simple: If you are genuinely an influencer, this is for you. If you’re genuinely not an influencer, then it is not for you, unless you are in the process of becoming one, in which case it will require an effort on your part. In other words, this is not about cheating or gaming the system, because Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok and all these channels only seek to reflect what is real. 

It is off course worth remembering that  much like any legal case where circumstances vary, so is it with social media verification. Perhaps I can explain this by means of an example:

Let’s say you’re an amazing singer, you sold a lot on Spotify, but you’re from a country where English news representation is low and you live in a small city. So the news media does not know about you yet – even though you have many followers on social media. When we go and add your story to the media, it cross-checks quite well with your real situation. When we embed your Youtube video in the news or an image of your spotify fanbase, it all adds up, it is legitimate. That makes you a great candidate for verification. 

Odi: 

That is very true from the cases I’ve worked with, but I also think we’ve seen numerous other examples, Adriaan do you think we can say something about it?

Adriaan:

We should discuss this yes. It is very different from the previous example I gave: because on the other hand, let’s say you claim you’re a famous boxer, but you’re not. In reality you just took a few selfies in the gym. Even though you’re quite fit from all your workouts, your name was never entered in any tournament, no local boxing club lists you on their site and you do not have a strong follower base either. Well in this case, just adding notability in news media, may not be enough as it would not be considered a real case and your chances of verification are much lower. Off course we’ve seen people making it seem real by running follower campaigns and getting reliable Wikipedia profiles along with news articles and they got away with cheating the system.

It is not for our company to judge if you’re a legitimate influencer or not. Neither is it up to us to try and inspect whether you have fake followers or not. But I think you should keep in mind that in most cases, people pass verification because the social media platform genuinely believes they’re authentic and notable in the real world. 

Odi:

I suppose that nobody was born an influencer and everyone had to start somewhere. What can we say to people who want to get up on the ladder, who are just starting out?

Adriaan:

IT is true: nobody was born an influencer. We have also worked with some people who came from nowhere, they had a vision of what they want to become. We ran some separate audience building campaigns for them, some of their stories went viral and some even succeeded with Wikipedia acceptance thanks to the media coverage we arranged – and that ultimately secured their verification. 

Many have then gone on to leverage these verified accounts as premium digital assets and they now resell their influence in numerous ways. 

Keep in mind though, these things sail closer to the line of cheating the system and some people feel critical of this. I’d like to think about it differently: it takes work and effort, it takes a substantial budget if you come from nowhere, because you’re not fooling the system, but you are rather investing in yourself to become a legitimate influencer, in your own right. 

Odi: 

One of the most frequently asked questions is “Do you guarantee verification”. Can you answer that on record Adriaan?

Adriaan:

Great question. Even with the high success rate our clients see and the fact that you can see them all over mainstream news, the reality is that we don’t make the decision: Instagram, TikTok, Youtube and all these Silicon Valley companies are quite independent and they make the decision. They’re quite powerful – as you’ve seen they can even dethrone presidents of countries, so we’re not going to put the word out there that we guarantee their actions. 

I should say this quite clearly: there is a chance that you will not be approved and that you may need to obtain more PR before you get approved. And in some cases, where notability is not the issue, you will never be approved even if you’re on CNN and Fox News 7 days a week. 

If you’re a business person and you can live with these facts and you know that the media visibility we get you will generate funds for your business anyway, this makes a lot of sense and you’ve nothing to lose even if you spend a lot on your PR. But, if you’re just starting out now, let’s say you’re still a struggling artist or athlete and you’re using your last savings to finance a PR campaign – there is a chance you will feel disappointed if you learn that more needs to be done to achieve verification. 

So don’t go by the fact that most of our clients are successful with verification, remember, your situation may be different in terms of who you are and how your notability is perceived and these results are not guaranteed.

Odi:

Thanks Adriaan, well I am sure that some potential clients might leave the podcast now, known they’re not quite ready yet for verification. For those who are still listening and who may qualify, can you talk about some of the commonalities between different platforms and their criteria for verification?

Adriaan:

Yes indeed: Remember that social platforms all go by publicly available information. So if the public would read something and regard you as an influencer, the humans working at Instagram and Twitter should think the same in theory. This is quite clear when you compare their requirements. Most of them ask for news visibility and some make it quite clear that if you’re going to use one of these sub-par press releases that looks like a sponsored campaign, they’ll turn you down. They all want authentic news content about you, that looks like earned media. 

Twitter go as far as to say that they want to see you have a Wikipedia page, whereas TikTok says that they’re essentially the same as Instagram in the sense that they just want to see several news articles, with the exception that you have to apply to Instagram in person, whereas TikTok will detect automatically if a user is in the news and then they’ll verify you themselves if their algorithm agrees to it. 

This just means that whatever you do for one platform, automatically benefits you for another. I remember when we did the first overlap case how funny it was: It was an Instagram case. And less than 10 days after the client got verified with Instagram, TikTok has hit them up and verified them, so they’ve hit two birds with one stone. This is becoming more common these days which is great. 

Odi: 

There are cases where clients are genuinely influential in one area, but they lack the skill to communicate this to the press. Are we able to shed some light on how these cases are handled?

Adriaan:

We can, yes. It is quite simple really: Let’s take the very real example of so many presidents who do not even write their own speeches; they read it from a set of notes. PR journalists are essentially those who write a presidents’ speech. They care to understand what would benefit the president’s image in the long run and produce their work accordingly for his approval. When we take you on as a client, you’re the president – we’re the journalists and strategists. 

In my office are lawyers, journalists, researchers and creatives. We all collaborate to produce the best result. 

How we do this and the format it takes, I guess is our trade secret which I won’t be venturing into right now. But you can rest assured that you’ll be well presented in the media and in most cases will have a fair amount of control over what and how it is said.

Odi:

Media visibility can have a lasting impact in several ways. Can you talk about some of the results people have seen beyond verification?

Adriaan:

Sure, we are happy to be driving revenue for clients and not just verification. Recently we did a tricky verification support case for an alternative medicine and organics brand. It turns out that before we even finished the job, halfway through, they closed a $700K B2B agreement. This was due to media visibility in Entrepreneur.com and International Business Times. This particular client spent less than $6K so the return on investment was astonishing and a total surprise. 

We had another client in financial services. Before his verification case someone called him a scammer on Reddit, despite his good reputation elsewhere. This harmed his revenue quite a bit. By the end of the job, it turns out that our media articles booted the negative Reddit articles off page 1 and now his trust metrics went up a lot. 

Odi:

Yes, I know of many other cases where the PR work had a good return on investment. I suppose this podcast is not the place to give tips on PR blunders? Can we talk about any do’s and don’ts for verification?

Adriaan:

PR blunders? Yes I remember doing case studies of PR blunders, the public thinks it is funny, but as brand ambassadors we are super careful about it. What I will say with anything that relates to your social media verification:

Firstly, keep your account clean and make sure that if you are an individual, that your name is clearly reflected in a way that matches your government ID. This is because ID-linked verification is the future and platforms are slowly starting to embrace it. 

Secondly, Steer clear from paid articles where it says “This is a sponsored article” and for goodness sake avoid calling yourself an Instagram or TikTok influencer in the title. That is blatantly manipulative and will not help towards your aims. If anything it will make it more difficult in future. 

Concerning any other technical questions of policy, name changes etc. I sincerely advise anyone to just read what each social platform says, and avoid so-called “verification experts” who don’t represent Instagram and the other platforms. Beware that these “experts” hang out on social media too and can give biased advice that will let you sign up for unnecessary things. For example some claim that submitting your application via an agency partner portal increases your chances. Well, I wish it was true for the sake of our own agency revenue, but the fact is that using your own mobile device to request verification gives you the exact same chance of acceptance.

I should also point out that you don’t get verified because of my connections in the digital marketing world: you get it, in most cases, because it is truly deserved. 

Odi:

Let’s talk budget: How much do people spend on average to gain sufficient PR for verification?

What is a realistic average?

Adriaan:

Because people’s PR levels and situations are not the same, it is hard to define a normal range. For example we have seen people verified with entry-level PR efforts that cost as little as $1500, and others who spent up to $9000 to achieve it. Most people would agree, and certainly from cases we’ve seen: that a legitimate influencer would also need around 6 to 10 articles in the news. Now keep in mind that by default, some media articles may cost $500 to arrange whereas others can easily reach $20 000. There are also things I can arrange affordably, which other agencies may need to pay a lot for. So it depends on the circumstances of the client and the connections of the agency. 

Odi:

I think it is worth running people through the process we normally follow and how long it takes so they can have realistic expectations right?

Adriaan:

That will help a lot Odi. You’re quite familiar with it too if you want to share this information?

Odi:

I am happy to do that. Well once we receive a client order, they get a brief template from us where they can express their wishes of what they care about and what they want the media to know about them or not. After that, we brainstorm and propose certain ideas for them to approve. Then the next step is the journalists will access the brief, provide interview questions to the client and formulate the stories for the news. Once it is all complete and approved by the client, it will go live in the news. Once that is done, the client can simply use their own mobile device to request verification. Our process typically gets done in 7 days, whereas a verification after submission, can take another 5 days.

Adriaan:

That was spot on yes. Obviously some clients need more time to get content approved by their campaign managers and partners, so we’re not insisting on a 7 day completion window, that is entirely up to the client. 

On this note I want to thank everyone for tuning in to the podcast. When you order our service, you’ll see that it is very streamlined after handling so many cases: we are after all the biggest agency for this particular service. I myself am available for email support although my availability by phone is quite limited given our scale. The good thing is that our journalist team and case managers are fully capable of supporting you each step of the way. So if you feel verification is a good next step to take, we’re ready to assist. 

Odi:

That pretty much sums it up. Social media verification really appeals to people and businesses from around the world in all sectors, each of them facing different circumstances. Keep an eye out for our FAQ section on the website as it is always updated according to the latest facts we have on these cases and feel free to send us an email with any further questions.