Michael Baggs, our strategy director, has tested Twitter Gold and gives us his perspective on the new Twitter verification system for brands. Get ready, there is a lot to consider.
What’s happening on Twitter Gold
Twitter invited brands to join the waitlist for Gold verification last weekend, their new distinction for official business accounts. While details of what will happen next or what’s required are a little thin on the ground, some of the promises of Gold verification for businesses and Grey verification for governments and Blue checkmarks for subscribers or previously verified accounts have been detailed. These changes continue to questions about risk and reward
The Gold checkmark and square profile picture are the new indicators that you’re looking at the official handle of a company.
It appears that Twitter is also accounting for verification for affiliated accounts too, though the cut off has yet to be defined. These could be everything from the customer service accounts and local market handles, through to c-suite or indeed all of a company’s staff if you choose to go that far.
The impact on brands
This has already created confusion as without warning some brands have been given Gold checkmarks and square avatars, while the majority of verified business accounts maintained their Blue checkmarks. Of those who are still Blue, most have the legacy description where Twitter says it “may or may not be notable” which isn’t helping.
As illustrated by The Washington Post only a week ago, when a journalist registered a verified account for a US senator for only $8 a month, Blue verification itself is still volatile as new subscribers are not forced to undergo any notable or authentic criteria and prove that someone represents who they claim to be.
This creates an odd gulch in the truth where there are multiple different tiers and scenarios for brands on Twitter currently: those without any verification, those with blue legacy verification, those with Twitter Blue, those with Twitter Gold, and impersonators who’ve signed up and been approved.
Is this a brand risk? Yes.
But if a bad actor wanted to register a verified account for a CEO, company or an affiliate, pay the $8 and are approved, there’s little a brand can do to mitigate that risk until it has happened and either detected through listening tools or have been otherwise alerted to it, by which point it’ll likely have done something newsworthy.
We’ve all seen this happen several times already. Is it as notable now as it was on day one of Blue verification? No. While it’s not a massive risk in terms of PR, it is potentially a larger risk if a fake account starts inviting customers with issues to DM them their order number and credit card details to receive a refund. These aren’t new risks though.
The bigger issue now is about affiliated accounts.
The examples given by Twitter include news organIsations having journalists all verified and affiliated with them, athletes verified and affiliated with their teams, and companies to have their support staff, leadership or even all staff affiliated with their main brand.
The question is, would it be wiser to have all, none or some of your staff verified and affiliated on Twitter? Is there greater risk or reward with one of these strategies? The answer is unique to each organisation. What’s right for Children in Need won’t be right for Samaritans, and what’s right for Foxtons won’t be right for Burger King.
The answer will frequently come down to the risk profile of the individual first, and then the brand.
Nobody should be expected to shoulder the burden of visibility in a public space without their consent and willing participation. It’s the right of British American Tobacco and Moderna staff to live as private individuals without the attention that kind of spotlight can bring. The reality is many will quite rightly say that the burden is above their pay grade. However, for sales staff in certain industries, I can see willingness to be verified as an affiliate of the brand as a strong want by their employer. It may well be essential for PR and corporate comms staff, although less so for the people behind the management of corporate social media accounts.
The opposite is also true, of staff being a risk to the brand, although I don’t anticipate it’s an issue as big as many will assume it would be.
If you believe you’d be putting your brand at risk by having staff verified and affiliated, then why are they working for you in the first place?
If you’re worried staff may post offensive content, sexually harass strangers or bark discriminatory nonsense online, why are they allowed to interact with the public or other members of staff in your premises already?
Get on the Gold waiting list now to be at the front of the queue when further details are revealed to make an informed decision about what option would be best. Start discussions about exactly how willing your brand is to expose itself to risk through affiliation.
There is a lot to think about.
- Are you happy to have dozens, hundred or even thousands of potential spokespersons?
- How are your legal and PR teams feeling about that? Will they need comms training?
- Will they need to use hashtags to identify when they are or aren’t speaking on behalf of their employer?
- If so, who is writing that training and leading those sessions? Will their posts be monitored and reported on? If so, by whom?
- Will they be free to post how they want bottom up, or will there be times when messaging will be sent to them for posting from the top down?
- Do you need guidelines about the use of brand logos and colours on their profiles?
- How about restrictions on the use of copyrights owned by other brands?
- Are they able to use pictures of themselves with their children as their avatars?
And so on. A brainstorming session with your communications team is probably in order.
Where there is risk there is potentially great reward too though. I imagine in a couple of years time we’ll see studies linking verification through employers to loyalty and reduced churn of staff, and the increased share of voice will be another massive benefit. Without doubt an early mover who does this right will get a lot of media attention and build a lot of positivity around their brand as an employer and for their transparency. Could it be you?