Verification on social media has been a long-running problem pretty much everywhere. You can run into the Facebook problem, where people who should be verified are not, and people who arguably shouldn’t be verified have been grandfathered in from before the restrictions were tightened. Worse, you can run into the Twitter problem, where verification is seen as an endorsement by the platform itself, which makes it very questionable that outright fascists and self-professed white supremacists are verified while journalists and public figures are not.
Instagram was on track to have the Facebook problem, but cut it off at the pass by opening up verification to everyone some time a few months ago, near the end of August. So how does verification on Instagram work, and can you get it?
About Instagram Verification
Here’s the official page for Instagram Verification. If you’re reading this in the future, especially more than six months in the future, check the page first to make sure the information I convey is still valid. If it’s not, feel free to let me know, maybe I’ll be able to make some edits.
The verified badge on Instagram is meant to be an indicator of noteworthiness. Under “what is a verified badge,” Instagram explains that it means “Instagram has confirmed that an account is the authentic presence of the public figure, celebrity, or global brand it represents.”
In order to request verification, you need to meet the minimum requirements – which I’ll go over in the next section – and apply for it. To apply for it, log in on the account you want to verify and tap the burger button (the three stacked lines.) Tap settings, and then tap request verification. You’ll be asked to provide your full name and ID based on the entity you’re verifying.
Once you submit a verification request, Instagram will review your account and make a determination whether or not you should be verified. Approved or denied, you will receive a notification in the app with the results. If you are denied, you can send another request after 30 days have passed.
Instagram Verification Requirements
So what does Instagram look for when they’re considering whether or not to verify an account? Here’s a brief list.
Your account complies with the terms of service and community guidelines. The Instagram terms of service and community guidelines are complex documents, but they basically just govern the kinds of content you can post and the behaviors you can get away with. Read them, internalize them, and don’t try to push them.
Your account represents a real, authentic person, entity, or business. Instagram will not verify a profile representing a fictional character, a fake person, or a business that doesn’t exist.
Your account is a unique presence for the entity it represents. Only one Instagram profile can be verified per business. There’s one exception, which is different language versions for different localizations, but that’s not likely going to be your issue.
Your account is public. There are benefits to running a private account, but one of the major drawbacks is the inability to be verified. Only public accounts can have that little tick mark, and if you have it and go private later, you can lose it.
Your account is complete. If you’ve left your profile photo blank, your photos without captions, or any other sign that you don’t really care about using Instagram, you can bet they aren’t going to verify you.
Your account cannot promote social media services. Specifically, services they don’t approve of. This can be anything from a simple “follow me” in your profile bio to links that promote a site to buy followers. A brand like Buffer is fine; one like BuyLikes4U.biz is not.
Your account represents someone noteworthy or well known. This is the most fickle requirement: Instagram only verifies profiles with a certain level of notoriety. The key term in their requirements is “global brand” here. Most of the people reading this are representing smaller, more local brands that might not make the cut.
Your account is potentially at risk of impersonation. Instagram will use this as a determining factor if your brand is right on the line. If you’re at risk of being impersonated and that impersonation damaging your customers, they will be more likely to verify you.
It’s also worth noting that if you attempt to streamline, bypass, or otherwise subvert the verification process by providing false information, Instagram will deny your request. If they verified you and discover that the information you submitted was false, they will remove your verification badge, and they may potentially delete your account as punishment.
Why Your Verification Request Was Denied
Now let’s get to the meat of the discussion. You’ve applied and you were denied. Why was your request for verification denied, and what can you do about it to increase your chance of success in another 30 days?
Make sure you comply with the terms of service and community guidelines. This is perhaps the number one reason why accounts are not verified, and if it’s in second place, it’s because notoriety is number one. Avoid misusing hashtags, avoid spamming people, avoid posting content that skirts the line, and so on.
Make sure you’re not an unofficial account. I’ve seen this a few times; someone asks me why they weren’t verified, and I come to find out that they’re operating an unofficial fan account for a celebrity, movie, or some other entity. Sure, you might be the official Instagram account for your website, but your website is not the authorized representative of that entity. Make sure you’re the actual entity asking for verification, not a third party with some tenuous involvement.
Make sure you’re representing a real entity. Once or twice I’ve heard of people asking for verification on accounts that represent a character from a movie rather than the actor playing the character, or something similar. These might as well be fake accounts as far as Instagram is concerned. Even if you’re following all the rules and you’re a very accurate roleplaying account, Instagram still isn’t going to verify you.
Make sure your account is public. Again, there may be some benefit to being a private account, but marketing is not one of them. If your account is private, you lose out on a lot of potential benefits, up to and including verification. If you’re in a position where you may want to make your account private in the future, applying for verification might not be worth it. Then again, the application is literally like four taps in the app so it’s not like it’s a waste of time or anything.
Make sure your profile is filled out and active. Instagram has no reason to verify an account that isn’t actively using their platform. Don’t rely on verification to be the incentive that makes you start using Instagram; you’ll never get it. Actively use Instagram as a show of good faith and they’ll be more likely to verify you. It’s not a guarantee of course, but it certainly won’t hurt.
Make sure you’re not promoting a business Instagram doesn’t like. There are a lot of niches that Instagram doesn’t like, many of which are listed in their terms of service. You don’t want to be promoting a competitor, though there aren’t many competitors Instagram would care about but not verify. You don’t want to promote any shady services, MLM schemes, fraudulent health brands, and so on. Anything at risk of being regulated by the government probably isn’t something Instagram wants to verify, for example.
Make sure you’re noteworthy enough as an entity. This is the hardest one to quantify. Instagram does not have any guidelines as to what is and isn’t noteworthy enough for them to consider. The best you can do is look for other brands or entities that you would consider very comparable to yourself and see if they’re verified.
- Your follower count doesn’t matter. I’ve seen accounts with under a thousand followers get verification, and I’ve seen accounts with millions not be able to get the check mark.
- Aim for a global presence. A lot of small businesses aren’t going to make the cut, even if you’re a more or less national brand.
- Don’t try to verify a startup just based on a successful Kickstarter or a round of venture funding. Wait until you’ve earned a position on a few news cycles and have a product available with a popular following.
Those are a few basic pieces of advice that can give you an idea of what Instagram is looking for. They want to verify the big players, not the little brands looking for a little marketing boost.
Make sure you’re not changing your information. Any major change to your account name or identifying information is an indication that you may have sold an account or otherwise gave it to someone else. You can change your profile picture, your bio, and so on, but don’t change your branding. Make sure it’s always clear you are who you say you are. You cannot get verification and then change your information to sell a verified account.
Make sure you’re building your brand on third party sites organically. Instagram says “We review accounts that are featured in multiple news sources, and we don’t consider paid or promotional content as sources for review.” In other words, sponsored posts and press releases don’t count as promotion, but an authoritative position as a writer – even a guest contributor – on a big name publication can be worthwhile. Grow your position online organically as much as possible to bolster your chances of success.
Make sure you’re promoting your Instagram account on other services. Instagram doesn’t mention it, but you can boost your chances of success by making sure to use and promote Instagram elsewhere. Linking to your Instagram profile from your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other major accounts is a good start. Likewise, link to your Instagram account from your website, and embed your posts in your blog occasionally. Basically, just prove that you’re using and promoting Instagram as much as you can be.
The Backdoor Method
Note: I don’t recommend any methods that violate the terms of social networks. This information is for educational purposes only. Use at your own risk.
There’s a route that some forum users have reported success with, for those that are right on the edge of verification but have been denied. If you think you might have a shot at it, and you’re not above a little subterfuge, you can try this.
First, set up a VPN or proxy server for a mobile device that isn’t your main device. You want to hide your identity while you’re doing this, since it’s against the terms of service. Make sure you only take steps for this plan with this obfuscated account, and never cross over between the two.
Set up a copy profile of your own brand. Basically what you’re doing is creating an impersonator for yourself. The explicit purpose of this account is to act like someone trying to copy your web presence and steal information from your customers. You don’t want to go so far as to actually set up a phishing site, but make it look realistic with a few hints of shadiness. Bonus points if you’re using a proxy or VPN that comes out at an endpoint in India, Bangladesh, the Ukraine, or some other known sketchy location.
Run this profile for a while, and then use your main account to report it. Point it out on your social media and mobilize your followers to report the account. With any luck, it will be banned. This is why you want to avoid cross contamination; you don’t want Instagram to realize the same IP address is behind them, for example.
At this point, apply for verification again. Ideally, the fact that you were recently forced to deal with impersonation will be enough to kick you over the edge and earn you that blue check mark. If not, well, you might be out of luck. Don’t try this more than once, or it becomes quite transparent.
How many times were you denied from Instagram verification? Did you eventually get verified? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!