Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity. Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity.

There’s no denying it: Social media is a major channel for B2C communications these days and this trend is set to continue.

While email traffic shows no sign of abating, we’ve witnessed exponential growth of social communication channels over the past year. Customers comment on posts asking questions, send you messages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and increasingly WhatsApp. I have written about the challenges this holds for hoteliers in the past, but today, I would ask you to consider the matter from a customer’s perspective.

A little while ago, I wanted to make a spa appointment. I looked at a number of options on Facebook and Instagram and found an offer I liked. For convenience sake, I simply clicked the ‘Contact Us’ button on the Facebook page and sent a request for an appointment for the evening of the same day. And then I waited. And waited some more. In the end, I called the number on the page and found it didn’t work. I then did what I should perhaps done in the first place: I Googled the business and went to the website. It quickly became apparent that I had looked at an unofficial Facebook page, rather than the official page of the business.

Along the same lines, two years ago, we found an entire fake island resort in the Seychelles on Instagram. That is to say, the resort was real, but the Instagram account was fake. When we contacted the resort, they gave us the username of the official account, which looked virtually identical. However, any messages to the fake account were replied to by a somewhat dubious travel agent. In short: The explosion of social messaging isn’t just challenging for businesses, but also for consumers. For this reason, many social media platforms are now offering “verified” accounts or other means to identify official accounts and pages.

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How do you get verified? Right now, the easiest platforms to verify your listings are Google, Pinterest, Foursquare, and Twitter. To claim your Google Maps listings, you simply go to https://business.google.com and follow the instructions to either create (if it doesn’t yet exist) or claim your business. Don’t be put off if the only verification option you get is ‘By Postcard’ — it’s a Google thing. Simply select ‘By Postcard’ if you don’t see any other options and submit the request. Wait two weeks, then go back to your Google My Business listing and select the ‘I didn’t receive a postcard’ option. Google will then give you alternative options to verify your business. Unfortunately, you cannot skip the postcard step altogether — apparently, the Google support team can only help you once you have triggered the postcard request and waited 14 days.

For Pinterest, simply add a piece of code to your website (invisible for visitors to the site) and, provided you have a business account, you’ll get a ‘Verified’ symbol next to your username.

On Foursquare, too, it’s fairly easy: Find your listing or create it if it isn’t already there. Then click the ‘I own this business’ option, input your phone number and credit card details (there’s now a US $20 charge for verifying locations on Foursquare) and submit it. You’ll receive an automated phone call with a verification code, which you’ll simply put in the box on the screen and all’s done.

To get a blue verified badge for your Twitter business account, you can fill in a form online — simply search for ‘Verify my account’ in the Twitter support section. You need to have a verified phone number on your Twitter account, before you request the blue badge. To do this, simply add a mobile number to your Twitter listing and verify it. There are a number of other requirements, but your Twitter account should already meet them; example, you need a profile picture and your tweets need to be public, or, if not, they are easy to add.

Facebook, while it has already implemented its ‘Blue Tick’ for private accounts (e.g. celebrities, journalists, etc.), hasn’t yet rolled out its ‘Gray Tick’ for verified business accounts worldwide. Some countries already have this functionality, but in others it will probably only arrive over the next year or so.

Other Facebook-owned platforms, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, currently do not offer straightforward business verification options. Nevertheless, it’s probably a good idea to prepare for ‘official’ Facebook business pages, Instagram accounts, and WhatsApp accounts. It’s safe to say that having your Facebook page linked to your business Instagram account will help. To do this, you need to switch your Instagram account from a private profile to a business profile, which, to be honest, you should have probably done before. It can be done easily in the accounts settings of your Instagram account and it has the added benefit of giving you access to analytics and advertising tools. Also, having all the business and location information fully completed on your Facebook page will probably help.

WhatsApp is currently testing business accounts with a group of selected businesses around the world and I expect this facility to be available worldwide in 2018.

Although Facebook and Instagram do not yet offer verified pages here, the situation is different if you can prove that your business is a victim of impersonation or if other accounts violate your copyrights or intellectual property. In such cases, both platforms will consider giving your page verified status, although the process is fairly elaborate and involves you having to submit a lot of information including notaried statements and copies of your ID documents.

Whatever you do: Keep it social!

About the Author: Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity. Iconsulthotels is now sps:hotels — a leading hotel management consultancy that provides its clients forward-looking business strategies, keeping them ahead of the market. Email: hello@spsaffinity.com.