June 19, 2015
Anyone who uses Twitter will know there are several keystrokes that can spice up the reading experience, and most importantly, add value. Handles (@) identify individuals or their companies on the micro-blogging site, and hashtags (#) provide a topical marker or context, allowing readers to discover more content on a subject that interests them, while filtering out what is irrelevant.
Cashtags ($) are a relatively recent invention in the Twitter ecosystem. They allow a new means for sharing financial information and are denoted by a U.S. dollar sign. With so much financial lingo out there it is still quite a privilege that a key sector of e-commerce deserves its own symbol to identify its messages. After all, pharmaceuticals, retail, or public service don’t have anything similar.
Perhaps not surprisingly, cashtags have been embraced by third party sites like StockTwits where financial information is the core and periphery of what it discusses.
However, on the flipside, one thing which could confuse cashtags’ popular adoption are mobile payments such as Square Cash, which launched in 2013 and since March 2015 has introduced cashtags around its proposition.
So, are cashtags really popular other than for transferring money, and how should we use them?
Cash too tight to mention
A quick look at how certain terms fare with a hashtag or cashtag in front of them may suggest that the new-fangled cashtag has some way to go. Or rather, helps show how not to use them.
Let’s look at a few. Take bitcoins – a form of digital currency which advocates claim will replace traditional legal tender in the decades ahead. Also known as cryptocurrencies, they are an online non-physical way to pay for goods and services or to store value. A little bit like the gold duckets we collect in online games.
According to Topsy, the term “bitcoin” has been used 557,000 times on Twitter in the past 30 days. Inserting # in front results in 920,000 mentions in the past month. Now comes the rub. Prefix with a $-sign and there have been only 67 mentions in the past month.
Mentions on Twitter:
Bitcoin #Bitcoin $Bitcoin
557k 920k 67
Cryptocurrencies has been mentioned 4,300 times in the past 30 days on Twitter. Slightly fewer people have opted to place a hashtag in front of this long word on 160-character max Twitter, at 4,100. But that’s still more impressive than zero for the cashtag equivalent.
With U.S. interest rate policy all the rage right now, cashtags are actually flagging. Markets and commentators are providing carpet coverage of this mother-of-economic events. When will the Federal Reserve finally raise historically low credit rates? When will the world’s biggest economy fire the starter gun for the global recovery? It’s a huge deal. It will affect everything from the price at which we import goods to the price of our mortgages in the UK.
The decision-making core at the Fed is the FOMC, or Federal Open Market Committee. FOMC has been mentioned 18,000 times in the past month – relatively disappointing for such a market-moving event. #FOMC was 2,500 and $FOMC just six times.
Another topical issue is whether Greece will leave the Eurozone single currency. That’s Grexit to you and me. The term Grexit was used 53,000 times, while #Grexit was 40,000 and $Grexit just seven times.
Another problem comes in the huge foreign exchange market and currencies. The SWIFT code for the US dollar – with a looming rate hike more in the headlines than ever – is USD. It has been mentioned a whopping 748,000 times in the past month. It landed a Topsy sentiment score of 69. Add a hashtag and that drops to 63,000 and a Topsy score of 48. But add a cashtag instead, and it drops again, to 12,000 and a Topsy score of just 21.
Mentions on Twitter
EURCHF #EURCHF $EURCHF
2.3k 8.1k 883
Much the same happens with cross rates. So the SWIFT code for the Euro exchange rate against the Swiss franc is EURCHF. That was mentioned 2,300 in the past month on Twitter. Put a hashtag in front and that jumped to 8,100 and a respectable Topsy sentiment score of 60. With a cashtag it crashes to just 883 and a 45 score from Topsy. Part of the problem is that many economists and financial journalists use $EUR as a shorthand for the dollar euro exchange rate. So placing a dollar sign in front isn’t always read as a cashtag about the euro!
How to really use cashtags
As you can see, the cashtag tails off fast with newsy financial terms and people are reluctant to use cashtags where currency exchange rates are concerned. So let’s take a closer look at what cashtags were designed for.
Cashtags are stock ticker symbols that are prefixed with a dollar sign. They work well with ticker codes of listed public companies – and that’s about it.
Hence, Microsoft’s ticker code is MSFT. That ticker was mentioned 12,000 times on Twitter in the past month. With a hashtag it fell to 1,900. But with a cashtag that was 11,000. Similarly, Apple Computers (AAPL) had 44,000 mentions but just 12,000 hashtags. With cashtags it romped home with an impressive 67,000 mentions.
Mentions on Twitter:
AAPL #AAPL $AAPL
44k 12k 67k
Needless to say, as many of these statistics also reveal, users still don’t place any hashtag or cashtag in front of key searchable words, and so short-sell the visibility of their tweets.