Hey, Twitter – I’m A Real Person. Are You Going To Verify My Account, Too?

Yesterday, Twitter started to roll out the verification of accounts, a process they first mentioned on June 6, on the official blog.

The experiment will begin with public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other well known individuals at risk of impersonation. We hope to verify more accounts in the future but due to the resources required, verification will begin only with a small set.

Please note that this doesn’t mean accounts without a verification seal are fake–the vast majority of Twitter accounts are not impersonators. Another way to determine authenticity is to check the official web site of the person for a link back to their Twitter account.

Already, a lot of celebrities have been given the seal of approval, including Ashton Kutcher, Shaquille O’Neal, Marvel’s @Agent_M, MC Hammer, Oprah Winfrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Some businesses, brands and organisations have also been given the early nod, including The Whitehouse. It’s clearly a work in progress, as a lot of names you’d expect to have been verified very quickly – like, say Al Gore – have not, while a few surprising ones have made the early cut.

Curiously, @mashable has been verified, while @Techcrunch has not. Somewhere, Mike Arrington is seriously pissed.

This is all well and good, and readers of this blog will be aware of my stance on verification on Twitter (and other social networks) – I think it’s both a necessary and important thing. But here’s my question: I’m a real person too, so is Twitter going to verify me? And if so – how?

The reality is that being a celebrity affords you many advantages in life, and this position transcends very easily to social media. Twitter has, rightly or wrongly, milked the celebrity train for all its worth, and that’s something that has certainly been to their advantage these past few months – celebrities bring magazines and newspapers with them, which brings publicity. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Twitter gets a lot of publicity.

That’s fine, but it’s also true that celebrities probably need the least amount of help. They have an army of lawyers and the money and resources to follow-up any threats to their online identity. People like you and I do not. We actually need the seal of approval more than the Ashton Kutchers of this world – everybody knows who he is, and everybody knows that’s him on Twitter. Somewhere, in space, distant alien civilisations are monitoring his tweets and all the publicity surrounding them, and thinking he’s our king. Really, he should been last on the list – not first.

I want to be verified. I want the perks that come with my account being legitimate on the network. I’m not entirely sure how Twitter is verifying the people who have already been given the badge, but it gets a lot more complex when it comes to regular people. I don’t, for example, have an agent. Nor a Facebook fan page. But I’m still real. I still want the badge. And I’m happy to send a copy of my birth certificate to San Francisco.

I’m wondering if, certainly in these early stages, Twitter’s account verification is really just another spin on the controversial Suggested User list (SUL). The benefits of being in this privileged group are well-documented – as much as 53,000 new followers within just one week, and almost 200K in a month – and of course you’re more likely to get followers if your account comes with the official seal.

That said, I have to tip my hat in Twitter’s direction when I note that not everybody in the SUL has been automatically granted the verification stamp of approval, but that can’t be far away, surely? It would be slightly odd to recommend users that weren’t approved by the system doing the recommendation.

I’m also curious as to how the verification tag is going to work in external Twitter software clients, such as TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop and Tweetie. We know that the vast majority of users – almost 75 per cent – do not use Twitter.com for the bulk of their Twittering, and if the clients don’t adopt this badge then there’s a certain element of ‘what’s the point?’ about it.

Finally, my heart goes out to Valebrity, who have done such a fantastic job with vetting celebrities on the network. If Twitter’s verification system moves quickly and accurately, services like Valebrity are really going to feel the pinch. That’s a big IF, though – Twitter are notoriously slow and arduous at making things happen, and the threat to Valebrity might be a superficial one. It’s worth noting that the situation regarding replies still hasn’t been resolved.

I’m curious as to your thoughts about verification – would you like your account to be verified? And if not – why? Hit the comments to let me know.