Antonio Garcia Martinez, author of Chaos Monkeys, is noted for saying: “Marketing is like sex: only losers pay for it.”
As someone who has built their career within the world of marketing, I don’t wholly agree with this sentiment. But I do agree that the recognition and respect that comes with good marketing or PR is earned. You can certainly pay to reach people, but you cannot pay to engage them and win their brand loyalty.
Not long ago, the small blue tick next to someone’s name on Twitter or Instagram known as the verification badge was a coveted symbol of legitimacy and authenticity. Not only did it signify that the account in question was trustworthy, but also influential. Offered to journalists, celebrities and brands with a significant presence or impact on popular culture, the blue checkmark was synonymous with a certain level of notoriety earned by its owner.
However, this past month, Meta followed in Elon Musk’s footsteps and opened up the once illusive verification process to anyone who is willing to pay $15 for a badge.
My first thought was, who in their right mind would pay for a verification badge? Surely everyone would see through these new verifications and they wouldn’t offer any additional kudos to the purchaser. But it was reported that Instagram sold over 44 million blue verification checks in just one day. At $15 a pop (a month!), that’s an almost unfathomable $660 million in 24 hours alone. Someone at Meta is getting a raise.
Regardless of the financial success of this platform update for Meta. I can’t help but wonder if putting a price on something that was once priceless has now made it worthless. If everyone has one, what does a blue check mark even mean? Have we really reduced the concept of credibility on social media to a monthly subscription?
Although Meta has made a pretty penny upon launch of the subscription, it’s been estimated that Twitter could lose up to 32 million users in two years after Elon Musk’s takeover and similar verification initiative. Is it wise for Meta to follow in Twitter’s footsteps here? Potentially de-valuing the credibility of both their platform and users by offering them the chance to buy internet clout?
A verification badge on social media was something I once aspired to as a marketer. But for now, I think I’m happy to sit out of the not-so-exclusive checkmark club.
Isabelle du Plessis is CEO of PR Concierge.