Well, here we are. Dogecoin, a joke cryptocurrency with no discernible reason for existing, is up around 200 percent in the last 24 hours, with a trading volume of more than $60 billion in that same period, and a value of 37 cents per doge. The rally earned write-ups in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Motherboard EIC Jason Koebler even snagged $100 worth of doge on Robinhood. The question on everyone's mind now is: What the absolute hell?
Dogecoin was launched in 2013 as a tongue-in-cheek parody of Bitcoin to raise awareness around cryptocurrency. It's since become an apparently unkillable "memecoin," blowing past a $2 billion market cap in 2018 (then unthinkable to its own co-creator) to its current cap of nearly $50 billion thanks largely to hangers-on who thought they could make some money on doge one day and an unrelenting torrent of memes and stunts to try and make that happen. Holders even sponsored a bobsled team and a NASCAR driver at one point.
Doge doesn't have the prestige, network effects, active community (it went without a major software release for two years), or issuance schedule of Bitcoin, but what it does have is a parasitic relationship to online attention seekers. There's a huge group of people out there who will selfishly clamber to like and retweet any post by a brand or celebrity that mentions Dogecoin so that they can make money, and the brands and celebrities have begun using this to their advantage.
In a recent earnings call, Conagra CEO Sean Connolly said that the Twitter account of Slim Jims saw its follower count rise by 160 percent and earned 32 million impressions in 25 days after it began posting Dogecoin memes last quarter. “We’ve seen a marked uptick in audience interaction, including direct engagement and advocacy from the person [who] created dogecoin,” Connolly said on the call.
“We’re excited about this, and you should be on the lookout for additional crypto-themed activations in the future,” he added.
The Dogecoin-meme complex that was always there has now become the Dogecoin-meme-industrial complex. It's a strategy, and one that apparently is working. Elon Musk, whose company Tesla is holding heavy bags of Bitcoin, is no stranger to posting about Dogecoin to farm engagement on Twitter. Snoop Dogg and Gene Simmons followed suit.
I can't speak for Snoop or Simmons, but demonstrably, neither Musk nor Slim Jims (and, I'm guessing, pretty much every other public entity posting Dogecoin memes), actually care about Dogecoin. Ultimately, they care about engagement on social media. And while they chase clout, on the other end of the equation are the Dogecoin holders boosting these posts as they buy doge in the hopes of making a buck.
It’s all very unlikely to last, especially since social engagement strategies always change. But until then: God help us all.