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Twitter Verified – Are Retail Brands In Trouble?

Introduction – What Is Twitter Verified?

What is the Twitter Verified Program?
On March 23, 2023, Twitter tweeted on its Twitter Verified account that they were sunsetting the legacy verified program as of March 31, 2023. That means that, as of April 1, 2023, personal or organizational accounts that were previously verified manually would lose their status if they do not pay a monthly fee.

On April 1st, we will begin winding down our legacy verified program and removing legacy verified checkmarks. To keep your blue checkmark on Twitter, individuals can sign up for Twitter Blue here: https://t.co/gzpCcwOpLp

Organizations can sign up for https://t.co/RlN5BbuGA3

— Twitter Verified (@verified) March 23, 2023

The monthly fee for individual accounts is US$8/month directly from Twitter or US$11/month through iOS and Android app stores (designed by a blue checkmark).

Organizations pay US$1,000/month (designated by a gold checkmark) plus an additional US$50/month for each affiliate account (designated by a blue square Twitter logo). Grey checkmarks are reserved for government officials.

Exceptions to the new program
According to the Washington Post, New York Times, and other media, there are exceptions to the new initiative. The top 10,000 top-followed verified sites and the top 500 advertisers will retail their legacy checkmarks even if they do not subscribe to the Twitter for Business program. It was also reported that de-listing is a manual process and it will take some time for Twitter employees to remove the Twitter Verified badge from accounts that do not qualify for the grandfathered scheme.*

* – In a public dispute with the New York Times, Twitter has removed its badge even though the newspaper organization is the 24th most followed account with more than 54 million followers as of April 2, 2023.

Implications for Retail Brands

In an early insight post, we discuss the general implications for retailers using Twitter as a social media platform of choice for customer engagement, promotions, and alert communication.

We discussed what retail brands should observe and how to manage a sea of potential bad actors paying for verified accounts to mimic or take over from official accounts. This new development could extend malicious actions for brands who lose their Twitter verified badge due to non-payment from forgetfulness or direct intention.

While we do not have the top 500 advertiser list available as Twitter is now a private company, we can use tools to assess if a retail brand is within the top 10,000 most followed list. Here are some examples of popular retail brands and their current rankings:

Apparel/Department Store/E-Commerce

BrandHandleNumber of FollowersRankBurberry@burberry8,192,234632Gucci@gucci7,104,053775Amazon@amazon5,438,6261,156Target@target2,138,2084,131Prada@prada1,839,8175,002Zara@zara1,378,7267,129Walmart@walmart1,363,8457,232Lululemon@lululemon974,49210,803Macy’s@macys883,72512,015Nordstrom@nordstrom695,61215,809Hudsons Bay@hudsonsbay140,53688,376Holt Renfrew@holtrenfrew80,978147,300Costco Canada@costcocanada51,958213,769Harry Rosen@harryroseninc6,827977,280Information updated as of April 4, 2023 (Source: Social Blade)

Supermarkets/Fast Food Chains

BrandHandleNumber of FollowersRankStarbucks@starbucks11,071,128392Amazon@amazon5,438,6261,156McDonald’s@mcdonalds4,771,9561,401Wendy’s@wendys3,916,7871,826Burger King@burgerking2,041,6634,382KFC@kfc1,673,1285,631Tim Hortons@timhortons662,47516,728Aldi USA@aldiusa107,406114,632Sobeys@sobeys51,518215,324Loblaws@loblawco6,1461,047,545Information updated as of April 3, 2023 (Source: Social Blade)
Note 1: Costco and Costco Canada stopped monitoring Twitter activities in 2019.
Note 2: As of April 2023, the follower threshold to make the top 10,000 list is around one million followers.

Retail Mashup collected information for 25 popular retail brands and noted that many national chains like Tim Hortons, Lulumon, Hudson’s Bay, etc. do not meet the top 10,000 organization criteria. These brands are active with their tweets and should be aware that their Twitter Verified badge may disappear within a moment’s notice.

Their customer experience/operation/marketing team should make a decision on whether to keep the platform as part of their customer engagement and communication strategy. In doing so, they should include the monthly fee in their budget.

If these brands choose to retain their Twitter account name but stop all engagement or monitoring, they should make sure this direction is communicated to all customers through their newsletter, mobile application notifications, website, company bulletins, etc. This will build awareness and reduce potential service gaps resulting from customers relying on the Twitter platform for information.

Costco Canada reminded customers that they stopped monitoring or responding to tweets in 2019. Note that it does not have a Twitter Verified badge. (Screenshot from Twitter)

Retailers who abandon the platform should note that users might still tag their handle in various tweets. It is important to check the account for unusual activities as part of their regular social media maintenance.

What’s Next Retail Brands And The Twitter Verified Program?

Elon Musk and the social media platform executive team hope that the Twitter Verified Program will bring them a more consistent revenue stream. This might impact brands that are active on the platform but do not have the budget to intention to pay for the monthly subscription fee.

The biggest risk of losing the Twitter Verified badge is that users may be confused by another entity creating a verified account using a similarly named handle. In this case, customers could be fooled into providing personal data (e.g., credit card information, name, address, etc.) or clicking a malicious link that could severely impact them.

Retail brands have the accountability and ownership to educate and inform customers about potential fraud associated with the Twitter platform. Beyond education and awareness building, it is beneficial for the brands to be proactive by monitoring customer feedback or surveying customers on the role of Twitter in their customer experience journey. The goal is to reduce negative sentiment or financial impact on customers engaging with accounts faking the real brand.

Final Words

Retail brands have a dilemma. Should they stay with the Twitter platform or the Twitter Verified program? Those that are grandfathered should monitor rule changes in the next twelve months and build contingencies. Those that are not grandfathered should determine the next course of action with respect to using Twitter as a form of customer engagement.

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