UPDATE: Twitter's confusing approach to awarding verification may just be a matter of smart marketing.
UPDATE: After this story was published, Twitter verified the @GovWalker account on March 4.
Original Story begins here:
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is one figure who's dominated national news in recent weeks, just like Twitter catchphrase king Charlie Sheen. Yet, while Sheen was able to obtain a Verified Account from Twitter right away after requesting one this week, Walker was turned down by the company last week after his office made an official request.
"We've tried to get the Governor's account verified through Twitter," said a spokesperson for Walker's office yesterday afternoon. The office sent a request to Twitter via fax on official letterhead last week to prove legitimacy of the @GovWalker account, the spokesperson told ClickZ News.
"With all the attention surrounding the Governor…it was kind of important for us to get his account verified. There are a lot of impersonations."
Yet, despite Walker's emergence on the national political stage in the midst of his fight with Wisconsin Senate Democrats and public unions, Twitter turned down the Governor's request.
"They sent us back a canned response" via fax stating the company is not currently verifying "for members of the public," said the spokesperson.
The reason Twitter began awarding account verifications in the first place was to prevent potential reputation damage that could result from fake accounts. "Verification is currently used to establish authenticity of identities on Twitter. The goal of this program is to limit user confusion by making it easier to identify authentic accounts on Twitter," notes the company on its site.
Although the firm stated months ago it had shuttered the account verification "beta," Twitter has been handing a select few celebrities and public figures the coveted checkmark icons.
"We continue to very selectively verify accounts most at risk for impersonation on a one-off and highly irregular basis," a Twitter spokesperson told ClickZ News when the firm verified talk radio host Howard Stern's account last month.
Since early February, Twitter has slapped its seal of approval on a handful of big names in media including Stern, Matt Drudge, and most recently Sheen. The controversial film and TV actor was able to obtain verification right away with the help of Ad.ly, a company that connects advertisers and celebrities for social media endorsements. Nationally-known political figures such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel also have verified accounts. None of Emanuel's opponents in the mayoral race had verified accounts.
For Twitter, it may just be a matter of smart marketing. Simply put, celebrities with big followings can help spur interest in Twitter among their fans. Countless people have created Twitter accounts just to follow people like Stern and Sheen, and without account verification, those Twitter pied pipers may have never joined in the first place.
"I think that a verified Twitter account carries with it an air of legitimacy and importance," said Michael Bassik, SVP digital strategy at political communications firm Global Strategy Group, a firm that works with Democratic candidates and organizations. Bassik was interviewed by ClickZ recently regarding Twitter's confusing approach to verification for political figures. "It's an exclusive moniker of sorts and [when attributed to an account], most certainly could be perceived by voters as favoring a front runner candidate over their insurgent challengers," he continued.
Walker's staff plans to try again. "I'm going to try to follow up with [Twitter]," said the spokesperson. "Obviously they're verifying accounts."
Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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