Google Plus Begins Verification for Celebrities

Pity the famous celebrities that face some strange issues on social media sites – such as proving that they really are who they say they are and not someone else masquerading as someone famous. Google finally began addressing this issue on Google+ for the well-known, but the rest of us will have to wait.

So if you’re trying to contact Danny Sullivan via Google Plus, and you want to make sure you’re touching base with the genuine SEO article, you’re in luck. As shown by Mat McGee over at Search Engine Land, Sullivan has been verified. How do we know? His profile now sports an official verification badge.

In appearance, the badge is very simple. Right next to Sullivan’s name on his Google+ profile, on the right hand side, there’s a little gray box with a blue check mark in it. If you hover your cursor over the box, it expands to a rectangle, with the words “verified name” in the same shade of blue as the check mark. Sullivan is no William Shatner, though, so what makes him rate verification? And how can the rest of us get it?

According to a Google+ blog post by Google employee Wen-Ai Yu, who is part of the Google+ team, right now Google “is focused on verifying public figures, celebrities, and people who have been added to a large number of Circles, but we’re working on expanding this to more folks.” So what’s the tipping point? What do you have to do or be known for to merit Google+ verification?

Apparently, there’s no clear answer for that yet. McGee noted in his article that the numbers seem to be all over the place. Google’s Vic Gundotra sports a verified badge – but so does social media author Brian Solis, and he has only one-sixth as many followers as Gundotra. Google employee Avinash Kaushik remains unverified with nearly 9,000 followers, but his co-worker Chris Schrier possesses a verified badge even though he only has half as many followers as Kaushik.

Among people I know personally, there is no consistency. Robert Balder, a singer/songwriter who co-founded the Funny Music Project (FUMP) online, and also writes a web comic, is verified. At the time of writing, 275 people have him in their Circles. Mary Ellen Wessels, on the other hand, who is also a singer/songwriter and is in the Circles of 372 users, remains unverified. Debbie Ohi, with a longer shadow than both of these people combined (more than 3,000 users have her in their Circles), displays no verified badge. Adrian Rodriguez, who I don’t know personally but commented on Wen-Ai Yu’s post, sports a verified badge – and stated that he had only 100 followers when he earned it. He’s up to 169 now.

I’ve been trying to build some kind of theory as to who gets verified badges. At first I thought it had to do with the amount of online activity. Then I thought it might have to do with the diversity of online activity – so that someone with seven active websites on different subjects would be more likely to get a verified badge than someone with only two or three, or even someone with six but who was only active on about three of them. Next I considered that it might be based on a particular kind of online activity. So far, in my admittedly limited exploration, though, I haven’t been able to discern any kind of pattern.

I’m also wondering what went into the verification process. So far, though, Google isn’t sharing. And I haven’t seen anything on the profiles of anyone I know who IS verified that mentions any kind of process they needed to go through. The company will need to put a process in place if Google really does wish to expand verification beyond the famous and popular.

Both PayPal and eBay have some form of user verification in place, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for Google to come up with something. While nothing on Google+ seems to directly involve the exchange of money (so far), Google may need to put some fraud safeguards in place. And then there’s the “true names” issue that they’ve failed to address, which practically deserves its own article.

In any case, I think I’m going to have to agree with McGee that “it’s probably a waste of time to try figuring out the minimum level for verification.” But I agree with many of those who commented on Wen-ai Yu’s post with the hope that there will soon be some kind of verification for the rest of us. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one other tech writer out there with my name, and I’d really prefer that nobody gets us confused. 

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