Facebook and Instagram paid blue ticks to put a price tag on authenticity?

Meta Verified “threatens to undermine the core essence” of Facebook and Instagram, raising questions for creators and brands on the platforms.

Facebook parent company Meta has begun rolling out paid verification in the UK, after trials began in February.

The move follows Elon Musk’s implementation of the controversial Twitter Blue subscription in November 2022.

Zuckerberg’s service, which is already available in the US, Australia and New Zealand, gives UK Facebook and Instagram users a blue tick from £9.99 per month, promising subscribers more protection from impersonation and "access to a real person" if they have any issue with their account.

“Social media was always a level playing field where engagement was king, not the size of one's wallet,” commented Flavia Colombo, Country Manager, UK and Ireland at HubSpot. “This new model, whilst potentially reducing impersonation, threatens to undermine what has been until now the core essence of these platforms – democratic and free access. 

“For brands, the impact is two-fold: first, the added security may be a boon, but second, it places a price tag on authenticity. As we adapt to this new landscape, it's important Meta ensures a fair balance between paid privilege and the inherent right to be heard and seen, without the necessity of a paid blue tick.”

Previously, a verified blue tick was awarded to notable public figures. Musk removed this on Twitter causing high profile accounts such as Hillary Clinton to lose their verification, leading to impersonation by other accounts. 

Meta does not appear to be planning to scrap legacy blue ticks.

Saving lost revenue – but at what cost?

This launch marks a change for the previously free Facebook and Instagram, which – like Twitter – rely heavily on advertising income for revenue. The decision to introduce subscriptions is an attempt to find other ways of monetising the platforms.

Dan Ives, an analyst at financial services firm Wedbush Securities, said in the Guardian during the February trials that the subscription service is an obvious response to challenges that have already resulted in Meta announcing plans to cut 11,000 jobs.

“Meta is seeing clear headwinds on the digital advertising model and this is a low-hanging-fruit way to potentially pick up some incremental revenue.”

Social media transitions are “inevitable”

Robin Ward, Head of Sales, Europe at creator platform LTK, told PMW: "Although it’s too soon to tell what the impact of the new verification changes will be, social media transitions are inevitable and creators have to be nimble in adjusting to changes to maintain their businesses. 

“Changes to the platforms are leading to creators having more dependency on platforms that better nourish their relationship with their community and with brands. Creators need a space where they are given the credit for the brand sales they make, and where their followers are able to see all their content.”