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Computerized Investing > First Quarter 2009

Editor's Outlook: Making the Most of Twitter

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

While in college, I took a business writing class, which instilled in me the concept of “bottom-lining”—cutting through superfluous prose and cutting to the chase. Little did I know then that the class was preparing me for one of the hottest social media platforms today—Twitter (www.twitter.com).

Twitter is a real-time messaging service that can be used with many different networks and devices. Instead of sending a message to a single person, Twitter allows you to send messages to a group of “followers.” The catch is that you have to say it in 140 characters, including spaces. By way of comparison, the sentence you are reading right now is 96 characters, including spaces. Admittedly, much of what is being “tweeted” about is as mundane as what you are having for lunch. In fact, a recent study claims that a random sample of tweets over a 10-day period resulted in 40.5% of “pointless babble.” However, in my opinion, there is a wealth of information you can glean from those 140-character messages. I currently follow over 200 individuals, groups, or publications on Twitter. They range from personal—my mom and sister—to publications such as The New York Times (@NYTimes) and Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) and Web sites such as MSN Money (@MSN_Money), Morningstar (@MorningstarInc), and Seeking Alpha (@MarketCurrents). With my Twitter “news feed,” which is an aggregation of the tweets of all of the accounts I follow, I eliminate the need to visit several sources to see what is going on in the world and market. Typically, tweets serve as headlines, with links to the full story. Beyond headlines, however, I have found a number of fellow investors out there who tweet their own unique perspective on the market. It is here, I believe, that the true value of Twitter lies.

However, corporations are also getting into the act, using Twitter as a means of monitoring customer feedback and providing customer service. One of these companies is Comcast, which turns out to have been a good thing for me. Recently, my Comcast cable DVR box experienced a hard drive failure. When I called customer support, I was told that there was an area-wide outage and that I should call back in 24 hours if things hadn’t fixed themselves. Being quite certain that it was a hardware failure, I took to the @comcastcares Twitter account and explained my situation. In less than 24 hours, I had a replacement DVR box and was back in business.

Only time will tell if Twitter is just another in a long line of Internet fads that rise and fall in the blink of an eye. However, at this point, it is hard to argue with the numbers. With over 21 million visitors a month, Twitter offers an easy and cheap (free!) means of connecting with people in real-time from around the globe. If you are interested in learning more about Twitter, visit its support center at help.twitter.com. Also, don’t forget to follow me @CI_Editor.

For more information on other social media resources available to AAII members, be sure to read the AAII.com column in this issue on page 8.

Happy tweeting!


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