Twitter and the online payment company Square announced Tuesday they are joining the 2016 campaign. The two companies have come up with an integrated product that lets people contribute to campaigns directly from a tweet — just in time for Wednesday's GOP debate, by the way. The companies — and politicians — are hoping it will turn people's social media commentary to actual cash for campaigns.
Politicians are already using Twitter and other social media in campaigns, and it makes sense.
“We have data at Twitter that shows that our audience is very politically engaged and very active,” says Jenna Golden, Twitter’s head of political advertising sales. “Essentially the number one question we’ve been getting from campaigns since early 2012 was, 'When are you going to allow for candidates and committees to be able to accept donations in a tweet?’”
That would be today, at least for some presidential campaigns and the national parties. The service allows campaigns to embed a “contribute” button in their tweets, gathering donor info and donations right from the app.
But will the people who pontificate online actually pay up, or will they stick to being so-called “slacktivists”? Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, defines "slacktivism" as “the sense that if you just like something or share something [on social media] you’re contributing, but not really making a big difference.”
She says user engagement can be specific in nature to a particular platform, so people who actively tweet about a candidate or campaign may not be as willing to use to platform to turn over cash.
“So I think this is an interesting play to see if people will put their money where their mouth is," Ito says .
Clay Schossow helps campaigns with their online strategies at New Media Campaigns, and is excited because the fees Square will take off the top of the donations, at 1.9 percent, are lower than other donation platforms. He says some of his clients have already expressed interest, and he has some ideas for how he’ll use this tool once it's available.
For example, he says, “If you’re going to be in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or a fundraising event, you can target people who follow you and show them an ad right then.”
Schossow thinks the service will make Twitter handles as valuable to campaigns as an e-mail or phone number. Golden, of Twitter, told Marketplace the company is already in discussions for using a similar strategy with nonprofits.