Oct 5th, 2015, 01:21 PM

Hashtag to Cashtag: Fundraising in the Twitter Age

By Taylor Ieropoli
(Photo: Business 2 Community)
Twitter has revolutionized the game of political donations and reaching the generation of younger voters.

With the rise of one-click payments and stored credit card information, our generation likes our online transactions to be as seamless as possible. Thanks to a new partnership with Twitter and Square you can now even donate to your favorite political candidate with just a tap on your smartphone.

Now, campaigns will set up a Cash Square account, which will then give them a personal “$cashtag”. When any Twitter user shares that cashtag, other users can click on it. The option will appear to input their information and donate via debit card. After that, any time a cashtag appears users can click on it, input their donation amount, and voila: you’ve made a contribution to your favorite candidate.

To see how easy it was I tried it myself, and I must say it really is revolutionizing campaign donations. Normally, I make a single donation to one candidate because honestly, the process is cumbersome. I get tired of the begging emails crowding my inbox, dealing with the hassle of mailing a check, or getting on the computer and clicking through the four or five donation windows within a candidates website. Much like what the Amazon one-click setting did for online shoppers, political junkies everywhere will have to resist the urge of contributing simply because they can.

Although candidates already strive to have a strong Twitter following, now they have an extra incentive: money. While candidates like Hilary Clinton and Jeb Bush have maxed out many of their $2,700 limit with larger donors, candidates like Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders have already seen the benefits of small money donors, with both campaigns raising close to $10.5 million in donations less than $200. Twitter allows easy access to reach these small donors, and gives other candidates a chance to catch up with this strategy. It also gives them a chance to reach a younger generation of voters, since 44.1 percent of Twitter users are under the age of 34.

Something else to consider, especially at the presidential level, is celebrity re-tweets. We all know Kim Kardashian is a big supporter of Hillary Clinton. Let’s say Hillary sends out her cashtag to her 4.3 million followers. Kim Kardashian then retweets the cashtag to her 35.6 million followers, and on average she is re-tweeted anywhere from 500 to 6,000 times. That’s a whole lot of exposure for Hillary, and an even greater opportunity to increase her cash flow.

Another advantage for candidates to gain donations on Twitter is many times during political debates, millions of viewers are live tweeting along with the program. For example, during the September CNN debate Carly Fiorina garnered the most positive Twitter mentions with one billion impressions and almost 100,000 tweets. Had cashtags been introduced a week earlier, I have a feeling there would have been quite a few people throwing a few bucks into her campaign.

The proof of its success, though, is in the numbers. According to a study done by Compete on the 2012 presidential election cycle, Twitter users are 68 percent more likely to visit a campaign donation website than the average Internet user. In addition to this, Twitter users who view political tweets either by politicians, retweets of people they follow, searches of political terms, or promoted political handles are 97 percent more likely to visit a political donation website. In other words, Twitter is already driving donors to contribute online, but now, we don’t even have to leave our Twitter app.

The digital age of social media is making politics more interactive than ever, and inevitably also changing the way candidates fundraise. According to Jenna Golden, head of Twitter's political advertising sales, "This is the fastest, easiest way to make an online donation, and the most effective way for campaigns to execute tailored digital fundraising, in real time, on the platform where Americans are already talking about the 2016 election and the issues they are passionate about."  I couldn't have said it better myself, Jenna.  If you haven’t signed up for a square account yet, I highly encourage you to give it a try—and then share that cashtag so others can join the converstaion, too.

(Photos: The Next WebThe Daily Mail)