Facebook is taking a page out of Twitter's playbook—and making a play for its rival's key territory—by verifying the official accounts of celebrities, politicians, and more people with a whole lot of fans. But will their new plan alter the fan-celeb social media landscape? Absolutely not.
From Wednesday afternoon's brief Facebook announcement: "Today we're launching verified Pages to help people find the authentic accounts of celebritiesand other high-profile people and businesses on Facebook. Verified Pages have a small, bluecheck mark beside their name on timelines, in search results, and elsewhere on Facebook." Of course, Twitter verification has been around since 2008 to help us figure out whether or not it was really, truly a celebrity that said something crazy. (Note: Amanda Bynes is not among the 50,000-plus verified famous people on Twitter.) Since Ashton Kutcher reached 1 million followers and Oprah signed up in 2009, Twitter has been seen as the favorite network of the rich and famous—a direct way for fans to feel connected to celebrities, and a place for celebrities to comfortably, even addictively speak out... sometimes to their detriment. (Twitter verification, it should be pointed out, has also reached levels of ridiculousness. See Choire Sicha's piece on the subject in the Awl.)
On a basic level, Facebook verification will, yes, help us make sure that we're really hearing from the real celebrity. But there's a fundamental difference between Twitter and Facebook. Despite verification, everyone is essentially the same on Twitter. Even if the follows aren't mutual, a non-celeb's Twitter account looks the same as a celeb's. Facebook is, at its core about friends—celebs on Facebook don't have friends, they have fans. You get to "like" a celeb, not be their buddy. It's very obviously all about self-promotion. Some celebs, such as Jessica Chastain, use Facebook as a sort of blog. But that's rare. Note how Justin Bieber's Facebook page (now verified!) pales in comparison to his Twitter.