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#Cashtag: Twitter To Allow Direct Campaign Contributions

People can now contribute to presidential campaigns with just a few taps on a smartphone.
Jonathan Alcorn
AFP/Getty Images
People can now contribute to presidential campaigns with just a few taps on a smartphone.

People are all about frictionless transactions online. That's why vendors have made it as easy as possible for us to buy products or make payments with a single click, scroll or tap.

Now it's easier to make campaign contributions, too, with Twitter's Tuesday morning announcement that the social media platform's users will be able to make direct campaign contributions for the first time. The new feature has the potential to reshape how money is raised in political campaigns, especially as other social-media organizations are likely to follow suit.

This puts Twitter slightly ahead of Facebook when it comes to the speed at which a supporter can fork over money. Many campaigns have a "sign up" button on their Facebook page that directs users to their main website, but there's no feature for direct contributions.

According to Twitter, here's how the new feature works:

  • After creating an account with the online payment-processing company Square, campaigns will be able to tweet out a link Twitter is calling a "cashtag."
  • Users who click on a link will be taken to a site where they enter a contribution amount, along with their personal debit card information.
  • After that initial donation, supporters will be able to make follow-up contributions with a couple of clicks.
  • Square will charge a 1.9 percent processing fee, but Twitter says it won't take a cut of the contribution. (It would, however, make money if campaigns pay to promote their cash-soliciting tweets.)
  • The announcement is welcome news for political campaigns, which all want to make it as seamless as possible for supporters to turn over their money and personal information, like email addresses.

    Campaign-finance reports don't identify how much campaigns raise online, but generally speaking, that's where smaller donations tend to come from. Bernie Sanders' and Ben Carson's campaigns lead the field in small donations, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

    For Independent Vermont Sen. Sanders, three-quarters of his campaign contributions have been $200 or less. For Republican Carson, a retired surgeon, it's two-thirds.

    It's an update that Twitter is happy to promote, as well. As more and more people use social media — and as the features offered by each platform grow increasingly similar — Twitter has struggled, at times, to grow its user base and generate the ad revenue its shareholders want to see.

    One advantage the company sees over other platforms like Facebook is the way users tend to tweet along with major television events, like playoff games — and elections. Many campaigns make Twitter their social media first priority during debates.

    Giving campaigns an opportunity to ask for one-click contributions will, Twitter hopes, bolster that niche.

    Indeed, within hours of Twitter's initial announcement, several campaigns had already begun soliciting donations on the platform.

    The campaigns of Republicans Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and John Kasich tweeted "cashtag" links, among others.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.