How to Get Verified on Instagram (for Free)

How to get verified on Instagram

Marketing budgets are shifting to influencer marketing on Instagram, so it should come as no surprise that more and more social media influencers (and wannabe influencers) are wondering how to get verified on Instagram.

Social Media Verification

Currently, most prominent celebrities, politicians and athletes from all over the world are active on Instagram and make use of it to interact with their fans globally. So, what makes these high profile entities distinguish themselves over social media? The answer is simple: It’s the blue tick that appears next to the name or handle of a person on their profile page. This tick ensures that you get the privilege to appear on top of searches and yield even more influence on Instagram. This is why how to get verified on Instagram is a popular subject of conversation amongst influencers.

I personally have become verified for my personal account on both Twitter (@NealSchaffer) and Facebook (Neal Schaffer on Facebook), although I have not yet become verified on Instagram. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t gone through the process of how to get verified on Instagram that I am about to describe below, as I have, and I am in the midst of my second application (please read below for further explanation). I have also engaged with others who have and haven’t become verified on Instagram over the last several months, so I will also share anecdotal advice based on those discussions. Before I talk about how to get verified on Instagram, however, I want to share my experiences regarding to becoming verified on Facebook and Twitter to glean some understanding about social media verification in general.

Facebook has had verified accounts for sometime, but never really publicized how one can apply for verification. The traditional thought process from the social network’s point of view is that verification is not something that you ask for but it is something provided to you based on your celebrity status. That being said, Facebook does have an application process hidden in their application / website. It was a friend who had experience who literally said, “Neal, why don’t you apply to get verified on Facebook?” and pointed me to a menu which allowed me to apply to get verified. I remember the application process asked for my personal website URL as well as I believe information on works that I had published, as I was applying as an author. Shortly thereafter I received verification.

How Twitter Democratized Verification

Obviously, not everyone can get verified because that is the whole point: Verification is usually reserved for celebrities so there is no doubt that you are engaging with the “real” entity. Even Instagram themselves say, at the top of the Request Verification screen that I will discuss below,

A verified badge is a check that appears next to an Instagram account’s name to indicate that the authentic presence of a notable public figure, celebrity, global brand, or entity it represents.

However, as influence has become democratized, so has the definition of who is a celebrity or “notable public figure” today. While Facebook has hidden the process, Twitter was the most aggressive in allowing users to openly apply for verification, and even issued a press release to announce to the world back in 2016. To quote a Twitter executive at the time:

We want to make it even easier for people to find creators and influencers on Twitter so it makes sense for us to let people apply for verification, said Tina Bhatnagar, Twitter’s vice president of User Services. We hope opening up this application process results in more people finding great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for these creators and influencers to connect with a broader audience.

Unfortunately, less than two years later Twitter discontinued open verification applications saying:

Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon

At the time of writing this blog post, it is still not possible to openly apply for verification on Twitter.

The Current State of How to Get Verified on Instagram

As you can see, every social network has their own criteria for determining who should get verified, and even if they’re owned the same party they use separate procedures to determine who gets verified. One can be famous over on Facebook and still not considered a celebrity over on another medium (although it might help become verified – see more below). So, how does one get verified on Instagram? You can imagine that Instagram would have a rigorous mechanism to check if one is definitely a celebrity or someone of prominence in order to mark a blue tick next to their name.

Previously, it has been said that Instagram failed to monitor verifications properly and had no clear, open process like Twitter. It was extremely rare or it seemed you had to be “in the know” in order to become verified. There was actually a black market in place where people seemingly bought Instagram verifications, paying up to thousands of dollars, apparently through connections who worked at Facebook or Instagram (I have had services contact me and try to sell me on this but have never done so). People even bought Instagram verifications from others, in contrast to Twitter and Facebook where one has had to apply for verification since the beginning. Now, Instagram has introduced the application for verification system as well. So now, anyone can apply for verification and depending on their background, fan following, content and other such metrics, they are either granted or rejected their blue tick.

To cut through the chase, the process is simple and can be done via the Instagram application for both iOS and Android, although I have heard anecdotally from some Android users that they cannot access the below screen. There is also some talk of some who do not see the screen I am going to describe below, perhaps because they have a private account, do not have enough followers, have not been active on Instagram long enough, or live in a country for which verification might not have started.

The “Request Verification” option appears in the Account section of your Settings menu inside the Instagram application, where it then asks to fill in your username, full name, what you’re known as (if applicable), and category, which right now are the following:

  • News/Media
  • Sports
  • Government/Politics
  • Music
  • Fashion
  • Entertainment
  • Blogger/Influencer
  • Business/Brand/Organization
  • Other

It is also required to upload a photo of your ID card if you’re a person or a legal or business ID if you have a business page. After completing all of this, a single click over the “send” button will put you in contention to become verified on Instagram. When Instagram announced this open process back in 2018, I actually posted a screenshot of how to find this screen below in my Instagram post, which I will embed for your reference:

After this, the application is reviewed and Instagram says they will get back to you within 30 days. For some it has taken Instagram only a few days to process and deliver a response in either granting of a blue tick or in rejection. When I was rejected, it came exactly as the 30 days were expiring, which I noted on my calendar after I applied.

In other words, there is some triage approach they are taking to Instagram verification where some are quickly rejected while others are perhaps left in some sort of queue until the last minute. To me, this indicates that they are comparing applications with each other and taking a set percentage or number every day. This is pure conjecture, of course, but my experience supports it.

How Will You Know if You Get Rejected or Not after Applying?

This is a question that many of my Instagram followers asked me after I went through the above process. Exactly 30 days after applying I received the following inside my Instagram notifications together with likes, comments and follows:

How Will You Know if You Get Rejected or Not after Applying? How to Get Verified on Instagram

As noted above, Instagram has said that you are free to apply again for verification after waiting 30 days. I just applied for verification for the second time and will update this blog post after they contact me.

How to Get Verified on Instagram: The Vetting Process

It’s beyond all doubt that the application and verification system to obtain the coveted blue tick has made it much harder for it to be attained. Surely, there are rigorous background checks behind the scenes that go into making it possible for someone to get verified. So, what are the basics that are checked?

For starters, although there have been exceptions, it is obvious that you must be a public figure, celebrity, athlete, or any name or brand of global recognition. Then, the next most important aspect is to adhere completely to Instagram’s community guidelines and terms of service. It’s at this point where the vetting begins, and it is smart to confirm that your Instagram account doesn’t do any of the following which might violate those guidelines without your knowing it:

  • Post only your own photos and videos
  • Respect everyone on Instagram (no hateful captions or comments)
  • Don’t spam people (i.e. spam comments or automated DMs)
  • Don’t post nudity

It’s the section entitled “Foster meaningful and genuine interactions” in Instagram’s community guidelines that might have the biggest implication to those who have tried to game the system:

Help us stay spam-free not artificially collecting likes, followers, or shares, posting repetitive comments or content, or repeatedly contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent.

If you have done any of the above, you’ll want to cease those activities and wait a bit before applying! It’s all part of following this advice on what not to do on Instagram.

Other than that, Instagram has stated on its website what an account must be about in order to attain and retain the blue verification. These outlines suggest that the account must be Authentic (a real person or a registered business or brand), Unique (only one account per person or brand), Public (accounts that are viewable to everyone), Complete (a complete bio, profile picture and at least one post) and Notable (account must represent a well known entity that is searched for people).

What does this mean for the vetting process? I analyze this to mean that you should have the following in place in order to get verified:

  • a public account
  • a real username, UNLESS you are a popular celebrity known another name
  • a real profile picture (or logo if you are a brand)
  • a completed bio
  • a history of posting on Instagram, I would say the longer the better
  • a link in your bio which leads to your website (I currently use Instagram partner Later‘s to lead people to different URLs for different images, but when I originally applied I used my website)
  • information about you that exists on the web

I believe that it is this last point that is the largest gray zone, but it would seem that you need to be more than simply “insta-famous” to get verified.

More Advice on How to Get Verified on Instagram

If you’ve come this far, its imperative that you must be looking for even more pointers to gain verification on your Instagram account. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered and wanted to offer you a little more food for thought to increase the chances that you can get verified on Instagram. None of this appears in the official guidelines for verification, but I would bet my money that the following are also considered as part of the vetting process for verification.

Your Instagram History

What I refer to here is simple: How long have you been an active Instagram user? If you just joined yesterday, don’t expect to get verified today. Social networks are in competition with each other and want you to spend more time there. The longer and more active a member (in terms of posts published) you are on Instagram, the less of a chance that your application will get cut.

Interestingly enough, just today as I write this blog post I received a new notification from Instagram when I logged in which, for those accounts with a large number of followers (see my thoughts on community size further below), when you joined Instagram (I joined on May 31, 2011) will now be on display for all to see. See below for the notification, explanation, and what other information will now be on display as Instagram tries to root out fake profiles:

New Instagram Notification - How to Get Verified on Instagran

New Profile Information for Instagram Influencers - How to Get Verified on Instagram

Additional Profile Information for Instagram Influencers - How to Get Verified on Instagram

Fake Accounts with Similar Names

It is no coincidence that Instagram will include “Former Usernames” as part of the bio of those on Instagram with many followers.

Originally, part of the reason that social networks wanted to verify celebrities was because of all of the impersonators that existed on social media. By verifying “real” celebrities, the social networks could then guarantee that you were seeing authentic content. Of course, only celebrities would have people impersonating them, but you might want to search for your own name and see if someone is impersonating you. Believe it or not, I found someone trying to impersonate me!

This fake profile was found and reported 29 days after I applied for verification and one day before I was rejected. Could it have had an impact on getting verification? I don’t think so, in consideration of the timing. But if there are many people impersonating you, it might help as part of the verification process.

Fanbase on Other Social Networks

One way in which I personally vet influencers for fake followers is if they have large communities on other social networks. For instance, a look at some of my “celebrity” followers in music or social media reveals the amount of followers they have been able to “translate” from Twitter or Facebook to Instagram:

  • Pepe Aguilar (Grammy-award winning musician): 655,000 followers (Facebook: 2.9 million fans, Twitter: 1.8 million followers)
  • Larry Kim (founder of WordStream and Mobile Monkey): 42,600 followers (Facebook: 23,000 fans, Twitter: 800,000 followers)
  • Mari Smith (Facebook marketing expert): 30,100 followers (Facebook: 215,000 fans, Twitter: 586,000 followers)
  • Jack Kosakowski (social selling expert): 29,000 followers (Twitter: 40,800 followers)
  • Juntae DeLane (digital media head at USC): 28,900 followers (Facebook: 2,100 fans, Twitter: 256,000 followers)
  • Michael Brito (employee advocate and social business expert): 27,400 followers (Facebook: 7,000 followers, Twitter: 94,000 followers)
  • Rebekah Radice (visual social media and personal branding expert): 25,500 followers (Facebook: 44,000 fans, Twitter: 113,000 followers)
  • Hitomi Yaida (my favorite Japanese musician): 20,400 followers (Facebook: 13,000 fans, Twitter: 26,900 followers)
  • Glen Gilmore (social media for law expert, fellow instructor at Rutgers Business School): 18,300 followers (Twitter: 307,000 followers)
  • Jenn Herman (Instagram marketing expert): 17,400 followers (Facebook: 5,000 fans, Twitter: 13,800 followers)
  • Neal Schaffer (that’s me ;-): 16,100 followers (Facebook: 10,000 fans, Twitter: 222,000 followers)

Of the above, it is interesting to note that only Pepe is verified. Does this mean that the others applied and got rejected or perhaps haven’t applied? I don’t know, but I would imagine that having a large community elsewhere on social media would only speak to your being a well known entity. When I spot someone on Instagram who has hundreds of thousands of followers there but only a fraction of that on other social networks, it truly makes me wonder…

Why haven’t these other influencers received Instagram verification yet? One theory is…

Instagram Community Size

When I posted the above Instagram post on how to get verified, there were many who immediately thought that there must be some sort of minimum follower count in order to become verified. Some had pointed out that they had heard of a few Instagram users who got verified, but their followers were literally in the hundreds of thousands. This would make sense as it is another potential vetting checkbox that could be applied.

Interestingly enough there was a gentleman who recently commented on the above post only to delete the comment shortly thereafter (don’t ask me why but perhaps he started getting bombarded with questions) who had 44,000 followers and basically told me to be persistent and keep trying as he just got verified. Considering that all of the non-verified influencers above all have follower count below 44,000, that might be one approximate guideline…

Jenn Herman, mentioned above, already wrote some great advice on how to get more followers on Instagram if you are looking to increase your community size.

Engaging Instagram Content

Being original with the content your account produces is of utmost importance on way to getting verified. While you cannot determine beforehand if your content would end up being liked your audience, you certainly can ensure that you produce good content and hope it is liked. This would require you to thoroughly determine what you want your account to be about and then showcase your work or talent in that particular domain. If you’re good at doing make up, you could put up makeup reviews or tutorials. Or if you play some instrument, you could cover different songs. But how could you be any different to existing profiles on Instagram? Well, that is where you earn your blue tick. You need to do things a tad differently to how others would be doing it and even if it takes time, you need to be persistent about it.

Content creators are the ones who end up yielding influence in social media, so it should come as no surprise that those that have figured out how to get verified on Instagram create engaging Instagram content.

Instagram Audience Engagement

If you’re publishing content on Instagram and no one is engaging with it, how real can your influence be? Why would Instagram want to verify someone whose community is a ghost town? I have written a separate post on how to increase Instagram engagement if you fall into this camp, but needless to say an influential community on Instagram is an engaged one.

Creating more engagement with your community is all about finding a niche or content buckets that your followers will engage with.

There is a famous saying, “Jack of all trades and master of none” which sums up perfectly what most Instagrammers aspiring to get verified and recognized are doing these days. Content on an Instagram account must be particular and should at first target a set of people that would be interested in what you’re doing (after you’ve specified what you’re doing, of course). For this, you can engage in several ways with your audience. You can do that over other similar platforms to get to know people in a particular space and form an understanding of how other people are doing something. Once you can get into a fraternity, you can grow from there. It is also important to interact in a meaningful way to your audience. Surely, “nice pic” type comments and excessive liking won’t help.

Another aspect of this would be to time your own posts into the peak hours of Instagram activity so that it engages with as many people as possible. Studies have shown that on Instagram, any activity during the evening is seen to get more responses while one can also post over the weekend to reach better levels of audiences. This is because many people work from 9 to 5 on Monday through Friday and simply are not on Instagram at those times.

Personalized Posts

The real difference between a verified and a normal account lies in the content being generated both users. The verified account has much greater responsibility to create original and personalized content that is not copying anybody or at least differs in more than one way to other material. There is no value for a follower if the content being generated on the post is stale, generic or copied. To ensure this, you need to add a personal touch to whatever posts that you make. Merely posting pictures of sunsets without any commentary won’t do that. However, good photography, lighting, editing (check out our advice on how to edit Instagram photos like a pro), or a fitting and unique caption might.

Apply again

Do not become demoralized if you’re denied verification the first time. I mentioned that I recently re-applied for a second time, and there is no prejudice against you in the application process should you decide to do so. Think back to that gentleman I mentioned above who finally got verified after repeated attempts and you can see that you should definitely apply again if you don’t succeed the first time.

No Shortcuts on How to Get Verified on Instagram

What you really need to realize is that there are no shortcuts to how to get verified on Instagram. Not everybody is meant to be famous and certainly nobody gets that overnight. It will take time for you to showcase yourself to Instagram just as it takes time to become a true social media influencer. There are a few rules one has to keep in mind in order to be patient about this and it starts with not looking for any shortcuts as well as everything else mentioned above.

Easier put, it’s not worth taking a shortcut down this road on how to get verified on Instagram because it simply won’t help. Not adhering to Instagram’s community guidelines increase the chances of your account being blocked or disabled. The best tip would be to just remain persistent and original and build an engaging community over time and you might just end up being awarded with that coveted blue tick someday…

If you have any other questions about how to get verified on Instagram or have any other advice or experiences to share, please do so below in the comments. Thanks!
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