Think social networks and you think of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but beyond these behemoths are a number of thriving online communities specifically for traders. Master Investor takes a look at the quirks, upsides, pitfalls and pluses of three of the biggest.
Of all the sites reviewed in this column, Scutify is the closest there is to ‘traditional’ social networks combining features from Facebook and Twitter with stock market statistics to create an environment that you can quickly feel comfortable in.
When joining the site, Scutify will automatically follow a number of popular accounts for you. This may seem presumptuous, but the idea is to get you going on the site, and you can of course un-follow these accounts.
As with most social networks, you can post updates. Here, they’re called Scuttles, and you can post up to 500 characters and an image. With this much room to express thoughts, Scutify comes across as a more intelligent, reasoned version of Twitter (where 140 characters is your limit).
There is also a market place, called Premium Scuttles, where users can sell content such as eBooks and trading strategies from as little as $0.99. Add Twitter integration, the ability for you to create your own profile, a feature that allows you to state yourself as Bullish or Bearish on any company (as well as see the overall community leaning) and you can see that Scutify is trying to be all things to all people.
One downside is that with all of these features, it’s easy to find yourself spending so much time on the site that you forget to do any actual trading, but once you’ve mastered the layout and zoned in on your favourite features, Scutify could become a very useful addition to your trading toolset.
As opposed to a true social network – in fact the site includes links to other social networks – eToro is a self-styled social trading network. If you had to sum up what the site does in a few words it would be this: follow traders and copy their trades.
Before any automated trading alarm bells start ringing in your head, eToro approaches the idea with a policy of being completely open (more on which below), and provides risk management tools to help negate the worst side effects of automated trading.
Any trader can join eToro and while you can use the site in a number of different ways – for instance, using OpenBook to discuss trading in a Twitter-like environment – you’re likely to fall into one of two camps. Camp one is to use eToro as a trading platform. This is a real ‘put your money where your mouth is’ way of trading as any user will be able to see what you have bought and how you’ve performed.
Camp two is where the majority of users tend to sit. From this side, you are more likely to follow the more successful traders from camp one, perhaps taking their tips and using them as part of your own trading strategy. However, the big selling point here is that if you like a trader enough, you can simply click ‘Copy’ and your account will move into automated mode and mirror the moves made by your chosen trader(s).
You can, of course, put in your own caveats, stops and limitations meaning that if your trader suddenly loses his or her touch, you aren’t going to go to the wall. Moreover, the fact that you can follow as many traders as you wish means that you can spread your investments between high and low risk strategies.
Reviews of eToro are generally good, and users seem reportedly happy with the returns. If you ignore those posting 300-400% returns (as usually this indicates a high-risk strategy that will have burned out before you get to it), then eToro could potentially generate a tidy little return.
Collective2, or C2, is one of the biggest social trading networks in terms of numbers of users, and numbers of trades made, but of all three reviewed today, the site is the highest risk, and the least rewarding from a social point of view.
The idea behind the site is that traders can discuss and develop strategies which can be back tested with real data (what strategy doesn’t work with old data?!) and then put into a market place where other users can subscribe and automate their own trading using that strategy.
For instance, at the time of writing, the strategy at the top of the list has been back tested to February 2005 and has a 41.3% annual return on the stock market. And for $100 a month, you too could use that strategy.
While on the surface this appears to be very similar to eToro, there is no charge on that site for following traders. Furthermore, eToro’s results are based on a history of actual trades as opposed to theoretical results of strategies.
All of that said, it’s not impossible to make money or to get strategy ideas from C2, and a number of the strategies do come with a free trial. However, in terms of the social aspect, there are certainly better options out there.