Today, Twitter launched a new tool in partnership with mobile payment company Square, allowing political campaigns to collect contributions by way of a simple tweet. The tool makes it easy for candidates to register for an account and tweet out a unique $Cashtag, which directs followers to a donation form on the platform itself. This may be the quickest, most convenient method of making a donation yet. In a political system that is heavily influenced by money, what does this mean for the 2016 election?
- Grassroots on the Go: This takes grassroots fundraising to a new level. With 316 million monthly active users, 80 percent of whom are on mobile, Twitter provides political candidates soliciting contributions with a vast group of potential donors. Candidates can now overcome traditional fundraising challenges such as poor event attendance or small email lists. Furthermore, tweets containing $Cashtags can presumably be pushed out at a high frequency without losing followers, whereas incessant email blasts asking for donations drive up unsubscribe rates.
- Political Peer Pressure: With just a few taps on the phone screen, the new tool allows users to let their own followers know that they have donated. This could put social pressure on users’ friends to donate as well.
- Massive Potential Reach: Seven out of the top ten most followed users on Twitter are, unsurprisingly, entertainers. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for politicians to boast celebrity endorsements during their campaigns. Having some of the most influential voices in American culture weigh in on the political conversation can make a big difference. Celebrity endorsements can give a boost to candidates with far lesser reach. Getting celebrities involved in a campaign by using Twitter’s new donation tool can exponentially increase a candidate’s pool of potential contributors.
- Every Penny Counts: In some ways, this tool lowers the threshold for political donations. It tells users that all contributions of any amount will help. Relying on the millions of active Twitter users for smaller donations shifts some of the dependence on big money from a few powerful groups or individuals.
- Mobile is Key: Being able to donate without navigating away from a candidate’s Twitter feed means that Twitter is becoming a fully-integrated platform for politicians to push out messaging, solicit donations and for users to show their support. This emphasizes the importance of mobile technology in political campaigns. Not only can mobile optimization impact the way that campaigns fundraise, but it can also help them organize, collect big data and engage new audiences.
We are curious to see whether this method of donation will be a game changer. People are accustomed to giving money via email solicitations; other platforms—Facebook included—have failed to deliver large fundraising hauls outside of the most high profile campaigns. Research has also shown that multi-channel communication does help boost fundraising, so campaign finance departments may want to hold off on relying solely on the $Cashtag to raise money.