STOCK WATCH


A Rough Guide to Twitter, for Market Geeks

Elizabeth Ody

Yes, this social-media site can be a useful tool for investors. Here's how.



You could be excused for feeling a bit jaded at the rise of Twitter. After all, some of us can barely keep up with a Facebook account here and a LinkedIn profile there -- let alone find the time (or interest) to inform myriad faceless strangers what we ate for lunch today. But for investing geeks, Twitter can be a surprisingly efficient tool for monitoring the market's pulse.

For the uninitiated, Twitter.com is a social-media site where users post 140-character-long "updates," which get sent out to other users who "follow" senders' updates. You can control who gets to follow you, or allow anyone to do so, and search for users whom you'd like to follow.

Business and investing-related tweets typically fall between two poles. On one side stand the old media brands, which use the site exclusively to promote their own stories. The Wall Street Journal (http://twitter.com/WSJ) and Portfolio magazine (http://twitter.com/Portfolio), for example, fall on this end. Followers receive a headline and a link -- it's an RSS feed in a different format.

Kiplinger's Personal Finance tweets at http://twitter.com/KiplingerMedia, where you can find official Kiplinger updates, news, interviews and featured articles.

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At the other end lies chatter central for thousands of day traders. These users broadcast market moves and collective banter in ticker-symbol-riddled, rapid-fire exchanges. The conversations can be dizzying to watch.

My personal favorite falls somewhere in the middle of this range. The site Seeking Alpha twitters timely market news and commentary (http://twitter.com/MarketCurrents), with links that hook you back through the Seeking Alpha site, but then connect you to a story's original source. With some 800 followers, it's far from the most popular tweet around. But it's smartly selective in its choices of compelling stories to pass on. Kudos.

If you're comfortable with the format of the site, Twitter offers perhaps the most up-to-the-minute venue for receiving market news online. If you follow the main business newswires, such as Reuters and AP's business tweets (http://twitter.com/Reuters_Biz and http://twitter.com/AP_Business), then you'll receive bursts of as-it's-happening news throughout the day, with no need to wade through a dashboard of different RSS feeds or news homepages.

Want to eavesdrop on the chatterati? Your best starting point is StockTwits (http://twitter.com/StockTwits), which amalgamates comments at its own site, StockTwits.com.

It is the focal point for all tweets on individual stocks. Twitterers tag a company-specific update with a ticker symbol and dollar sign -- such as $AAPL for a post about Apple -- and their update then shows up on the main page of StockTwits.com. Why should you sign up for yet another site? You can set up a portfolio on StockTwits.com to filter messages only on those companies that interest you. Plus, your own tweets will show up on the StockTwits main page, so users interested in the same stocks can comment on your posts.

And yes, in case you were wondering, Warren Buffett is on Twitter. Or at least, a profile claiming to be the "official" Twitter page of Buffett is on Twitter.com (one problem with the site is its lack of accountability for whether users really are who they claim to be). But the Sage has yet to begin posting regularly.

See any glaring omissions on this list, or simply disagree? Tweet me (http://twitter.com/Eody) and let me know what I'm missing.




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