The introduction of Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok to the media space in Sierra Leone has revived the conversation around the verification of social media accounts of celebrities in Sierra Leone. This is largely as a number of young Sierra Leoneans are becoming TikTok trailblazers, thus giving them the necessary attention. Some of these young Sierra Leonean TikTokers have attracted millions of followers on TikTok but are yet to be awarded the blue tick badge, thus making their accounts unverified. One of such prominent Sierra Leonean TikTok celebrities is Peter AA Komba who has over two million followers on TikTok, arguably the first local Sierra Leonean to reach such a peak on social media following. The lack of verification by TikTok has led to backlash from friends and fans, who at some point embarked on a campaign to have TikTok verify Komba but to no avail.
Very recently, another TikTok profile image of a Sierra Leonean influencer was going viral on social media platforms in Sierra Leone with congratulatory messages over a verified TikTok account. Fatmata Timbo, the TikToker, is based in the United Kingdom and calls herself the Funniest Little Model.
Her verification revived the debate afresh as to who and why TikTok verifies an account. In some of the comments on facebook in relation to the post, some facebook users questioned why the lady who has a lesser following than Peter AA Komba was verified with the blue badge by TikTok and not Komba with the largest following on TikTok in the country. One commenter justifying this concluded that Komba is yet to be verified by TikTok because he is based in Sierra Leone and not overseas. According to him, if Peter was a diaspora Sierra Leonean, he would have been verified by now with that amount of following. The other commenter stated that the lady was verified because she had more local following from her current destination and Peter does not have much of his followers from Sierra Leone while someone else spoke about the richness of Timbo’s content in relation to Peter’s.
What Is A Verified Badge And Why Is It Necessary?
As TikTok defines it, a verified account is a blue check mark displayed alongside social media handles and helps users make informed choices through an authenticated account.
“Our users come from all walks of life and the verified badge is a quick way to let you know you are following the real deal rather than a fake or fan account,” TikTok says.
Tiktok went further to note that if a profile does not have the badge below their username but displays it somewhere else on their profile (such as in their Bio), it is not a verified account. Verified badges can only be applied by social media companies and will appear in the same place every time.
Having a verified account makes your handle a reliable source and guarantees traffic to your account. It is also a very potent brand visibility and expansion paraphernalia and thus very important. They are mostly awarded to brands/celebrities that stand the risk of being impersonated after meeting all requirements.
Verification Requirements By Top Social Media Platforms
The process of getting verified on social media platforms is more or less the same for all wherein the company sets its criteria and chooses people/brands they see fit to grant a badge. This is still the case for TikTok for instance but others have democratized the process of earning a badge by making it an open application process. Below is an overview of the processes designed for verification by the most popular social media platforms – Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook
Instagram is an American photo and video sharing networking service that was originally launched in 2010 on iOS and later in 2012 on Android. In 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for approximately $1 billion. Instagram has very recently made its account verification process open to everyone by attaching a space in their setting for request for verification where anyone can apply. Foremost amongst the requirements for Instagram verification is the amount of web presence an individual/brand has. At minimum, you must have at least ten featured articles about yourself/brand. The article must be full featured and not mere mentions. Articles on free to publish websites and a Wikipedia page, google landscape panel and website are all advantageous for having your account verified. In a nutshell, Instagram demands a substantial web presence for verification.
The CONTENT uniqueness of your account plays a key role in attracting a certain level of concentration to your account. Your contents have to be original and must be going viral as much as possible. Sharing, copying and pasting contents are not mostly considered, as Instagam looks for originality and gives preference to user generated contents. It should be also noted that public and not private accounts are eligible for verification.
TikTok is a video-sharing focused networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. Douyin as TikTok is known in China was introduced to the Chinese market in 2016 and to the outside market in 2017 and is used to create short form videos from different spheres of life- education, sport, comedy and dance from fifteen seconds to three minutes. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the TikTok verification process cannot be achieved via an application process.
“Tik Tok has a dedicated team that seeks out creators, brands and influencers to grant a badge” and the following key points stated in the link below are carefully considered before granting a badge to a user/brand. An article published by Galaxy Marketing explains the criteria set for possible verification:
- Your account should experience consistent growth when you post regularly and should be gaining 400-500 followers per day for TikTok to verify one’s account. However, it was made clear that the number of followers IS NOT enough for your account to be verified.
- To be considered for verification on TikTok, your engagement rate, views in your channel and watch time should be substantially high. TikTok will strongly consider you for verification if you have been featured in prominent media platforms otherwise referred to as valid media presence.
- Your content should be consistently going viral and should be your original content, and your verification in other social media platforms will push you for automatic verification and a typical requirement for all platforms is meeting the Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.
Twitter was launched in 2016 and is an American microblogging and social networking service where people interact and express opinions by tweeting on a limited 140 characters for most accounts. Twitter had more than 330 million monthly active users.
Twitter made clear in its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that the blue verified badge on its platform is to let people know that an account of public interest is authentic. It noted further that an account must be active and notable to be verified. Twitter currently verifies six types of notable accounts: governments, companies, brands and nonprofits, news organizations and journalists, entertainment, sports and activists, organizers and other influential individuals. Twitter, like Facebook and Instagram, also has an open application for account verification from all categories of users and scrutinizes based on account authenticity and how notable and active the account is to receive a badge.
However, there are certain accounts that Twitter classifies as ineligible for a badge even if they meet all the criteria. Accounts that are parody, newsfeed, commentary and unofficial fan accounts fall within this category, especially accounts that are engaged in severe violations of Twitter’s manipulation and spam policy; otherwise known as buying and selling of followers and engagements as well as accounts or people associated with coordinated harmful activity or hateful content as defined by Twitter’s Ad policies or one that has been involved in committing gross human right violation confirmed by an international court or tribunal.
Lastly, pets and fictional characters, unless directly affiliated with a verified company, brand, or organization, or with a verified entertainment production are all not eligible for verification as clearly explained in this section.
Facebook is an American social networking service launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and some of his colleagues from Harvard. Facebook recorded 2.8 billion active monthly users in 2020 and remains the most widely used global social media platform. It has an online application process for account verification with a form section attached for applying. Facebook equally emphasizes authenticity, uniqueness, completeness, and notability as the most relevant requirement for verification as better explained in this Facebook help center section.
The reasons put forward by most of the comments made by users on Facebook relating to the verified TokTok account of Fatmata Timbo clearly shows the misconception on account verification. Getting the blue verified badge can be a daunting task, especially when we rely on just one requirement (number of followers) to fulfil that purpose. Several other factors are taken into account as expressed in the paragraphs above.
Whilst we cannot be authoritative in explaining why one account has been verified over another, social media platforms set their criteria as has been discussed in this article. Some factors like richness and originality in contents, engagement levels, growing number of followers, having other verified social media handles all contribute to having an account verified. A lot of these social media companies have created open application privileges for people of all backgrounds to apply for verification, thus making it much more democratic and inclusive. Some of these requirements were fleshed out in the links attached and will help guide social media users on how to gain grounds for possible verification of their social media accounts.