By Willy Staley  Tue Jul 31, 2012

Twitter Enables ‘Cashtags’: Your Next Go-To Investing Tool?

Picture this: Twitter might actually be of use to you someday, thanks to an update to the highly-addictive microblogging service’s functionality. For years, day traders have been tagging stock tickers with dollar signs to make them easily searchable. (Instead of mentioning that you’re shorting Facebook, you’d write that you’re shorting $FB, for example). This will allow users to track market sentiment — or at least vocal day trader sentiment — in the same way they might track a witty hashtag or breaking news.

Twitter announced the change on its official account, stating simply: “Now you can click on ticker symbols like $GE on twitter.com to see search results about stocks and companies.” Previously, they showed up as regular, non-clickable text.

Users have taken to calling it a “cashtag,” but day traders have been doing this for years.

StockTwits, founded in 2008 by an investor named Howard Lindzon, sought to do what Twitter was not: create a community where traders could share their thoughts on stocks by using the $ tag. According to the website, more than 150,000 people use the service. It has even been packaged to be sold off to hedge funds as a way of monitoring market sentiment.

Lindzon is not pleased, and accused Twitter of hijacking his service, but not doing it as well as he has. He knows the limitations of searching Twitter for cashtags having been at it for some years.

Lindzon writes: “Go check out $HIT [Hitachi] or $WAG [Walgreens] on Twitter search or thousands of other features around curation that we have thought about for 4 years and implemented.”

Of course, searching both $HIT and $WAG turn up information that is anything but useful to investors. That will be something for Twitter to hash out — hey! — over the coming months, possibly to StockTwit’s detriment.

At least now there’s a way that Twitter might actually make you money, instead of just distracting you from your work. Will it replace the Bloomberg Terminal? Well, I wouldn’t count on it.

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