Inside Bloomberg’s Twitter A-List (Well, At Least a Fraction of It)

Categories: Equity Investments, Portfolio Management
Bloomberg Professional Service integrates Twitter

Earlier this month, following the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to allow public companies to disclose corporate information through social media, Bloomberg announced that it had become the first financial information platform to integrate real-time Twitter feeds “directly into the investment workflows of market professionals.” Subscribers of the Bloomberg Professional service can now “monitor and analyze real-time Twitter updates issued by corporations, executives, government officials, economists, commentators, media outlets, and other voices that can influence financial markets” using command TWTR<GO>.

As Bloomberg’s core product manager for news explained in a recent blog post:

Traders and investors with access to a Bloomberg terminal can use TWTR to build a search filter for updates from Twitter (or tweets). Users can filter content from Twitter by company, ticker, industry, authors (or people) and Bloomberg-recommended markets and topics. Filters offer controls to manage tweet volume, so users can narrow their search parameters to those tweets that are most relevant.

Bloomberg pre-selected several thousand Twitter handles of companies and authors that report market moving or breaking news about the financial markets, companies, securities, or industries, and we are refining the list constantly with input from clients. We also created Social Velocity Alerts to capture when there is an unusual burst of social chatter around a given stock.

In looking to add value for its terminal customers, Bloomberg has also conferred considerable additional influence on the Twitter accounts selected for the new service. As New York magazine’s Kevin Roose has pointed out, “Being on Bloomberg’s VIP list isn’t just a meaningless status symbol . . . It’s tantamount to being able to broadcast your thoughts into every firm on Wall Street, and each person on the list gets more than 300,000 silent followers, who may or may not be trading millions of dollars based on their 140-character musings.”

So who exactly are these newly crowned über-influential Twitter users?

Bloomberg wouldn’t disclose to New York the full list of several thousand accounts that have been approved for display on the terminal. And if the company sticks to its pledge to continuously add more Twitter handles over time with the input of its clients, the list will remain something of a moving target. Nonetheless, working with a Bloomberg terminal user, New York compiled a “very partial list” of 100 accounts that are displayed on the terminal. The magazine readily admits that it was an imperfect exercise, given that Bloomberg’s social sentiment analysis tool also captures tweets from Twitter users not on the approved list (based on key word searches or ticker symbols). Still, applying some basic network analysis to the disclosed accounts yields some interesting observations about this slice of the chosen few.

Let’s start with a visual map of the accounts identified by New York and their follow relationships (click to enlarge):

Network of 100 Twitter Accounts Displayed on the Bloomberg Terminal

 

What immediately jumps out is how highly connected all of these accounts are, suggesting that information originating in any one node can flow pretty quickly across the entire network — and get discounted equally quickly along the way. The average distance in the network between any two nodes is 1.8 hops; only three of the 100 accounts have no follow relationships with any of the others.

Additionally, as New York points out, the network is composed of “pretty much the list you’d expect.” It includes:

Many investment professionals, it seems fair to say, are only now beginning to think through how to incorporate Twitter into their investment decision making. Some of the early evidence suggests that using Twitter for sentiment analysis is experimental at best. I’ve always thought that the power of Twitter is its ability to surface novel opinions and voices. But if these 100 accounts are at all representative of the full approved list of Twitter users on Bloomberg, it would be hard to argue that the new service is going to be an engine of out-of-the-box idea generation given the tight connections between the Twitter users — and the rapidity with which new ideas expressed in tweets can course through the network and, now, out through Bloomberg’s terminals.

Although this is hardly a scientific exercise, what follows is some additional network mapping and analysis of the Twitter accounts named by New York magazine that are now appearing on a Bloomberg terminal near you:

 

Power Twitter Users
(Accounts with More than 50,000 Tweets)

Power Tweeters on the Bloomberg Terminal

 

Accounts with the Most Followers

 

Twitter Accounts on the Bloomberg Terminal with the Most Followers

Accounts with the Most “In Degrees”
(i.e., Most Followers from within the
Network of 100 Twitter Accounts)

Twitter Accounts on the Bloomberg Terminal with the Highest "In Degree"

Accounts with the Highest “Closeness Centrality”
(i.e., Users with the Most Central Positions in the Network,
Enabling Them to Disseminate Information Most Quickly)

Twitter Accounts on the Bloomberg Terminal with the Highest Closeness Centrality

Some take-aways:

  • The accounts most followed by this Bloomberg clique are decidedly not the same accounts that are most followed by the public at large. It appears that the Bloomberg Twitter users are more apt to follow bloggers (@reformedbroker, @zerohedge) than mainstream media outlets (@NBCnews, @FT). Only @CNBC appears in both network maps of the most followed accounts.
  • Six accounts with the highest closeness centrality also make the power Twitter user list: @antderosa, @moorehn, @reformedbroker, @zerohedge, @thestalwart, and @scobleizer. Perhaps the takeaway here is that if you want limited exposure to this network, these are the accounts to follow. One minor surprise is @scobleizer, the account of tech blogger Robert Scoble. One would expect him to be central to a technology-focused Twitter network; less so in a network focused broadly on finance.
  • Politicians and government agencies are largely on the periphery of this network. Senator Elizabeth Warren (@senwarren) follows only one person: fellow Senator John McCain (@senjohnmccain). His account does not follower her back. McCain’s only follows in the network are @CBSNews and @Oknox, the chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News. Only 12 of the 100 accounts follow Senator McCain. Half as many follow Senator Warren.
  • Similarly, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s (@agschneiderman) only follows in the network are the US Justice Department (@thejusticedept), @NBCnews, and @CNBC. Only three Twitter handles in the network follow Schneiderman: @antderosa, @ianbremmer, and @lopezlinette.
  • One exception to the relative isolation of the public sector: Nearly a quarter of the 100 Bloomberg Twitter accounts follow the US Treasury Department (@USTreasury). However, Treasury has only one follow: the US Justice Department.

Perhaps Bloomberg will decide to disclose the full list of Twitter handles that make its approved list. An analysis of the full network would surely yield some interesting observations. But then again, from an information discovery perspective, the entire exercise of isolating Twitter VIPs may be of limited value. As one of my colleagues at CFA Institute pointed out to me, the opportunity in leveraging social media is not so much in tapping into “the experts'” information stream as much as it is in observing influential sharing across an entire network. After all, it’s often the “non-experts” who are much closer to unpredictable events that give rise to investment risks and opportunities.

Or as another colleague put it more succinctly: It’s not about the people. It’s about the information.


Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Nikada

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12 comments on “Inside Bloomberg’s Twitter A-List (Well, At Least a Fraction of It)

  1. “When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.” – Eric Hoffer

    New communication paradigms (telephone, radio, TV, Internet) often make people think that everything is going to be different, but mostly people’s behaviors remain the same, and more and faster interconnections make us more herdy.

    Empirically, I think the top tier on Twitter is connectors who retransmit and reflect each other. A widely recognized list of ‘must follows’ doesn’t help, but I think if you’re not following those central people, you’re at risk of being behind, missing something that’s in the market. Anecdotally, my experience of getting more involved in social media was thinking I was pretty well informed, and realizing I was missing a lot, and a lot of what made the media and op-ed pages was percolating around blogs and social media for a bit before it popped up in mainstream debate.

    If you want to be ahead of the herd, you have to look beyond the most central people and build a network of the sort of ‘smart money’ that builds bases in ideas. The good news is there’s a lot of churn in the second tier. When something like Cyprus happens, or even when someone has a really good insight, good people get really popular really quickly (Pawel Morski, Evan Soltas come to mind). Which is a positive for idea diversity and ‘herd immunity.’

    Discovering those people is hard, but (shameless plug) it’s part of what we’re trying to do at Linkfest.com!

  2. I haven’t checked personally but I’m told I’m on the list (@The_Analyst), for what it’s worth. If true, it’s an honor (and responsibility to deliver quality).

    Otherwise great article, semi-unsurprising the people, networks and relationships between nodes therein, at least in my observation of following entirely too many people on twitter/stocktwits over the past 4.5 years or so.

    –JT

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  6. Len, interesting blog. Nice visuals and I liked your approach at starting to analyze the network. I agree with your last comment that it’s less about the individual accounts and more about the information. In fact, there has been some outstanding work on predicting the stock market based on the mood from twitter … check out this article (direct to the pdft). http://arxiv.org/pdf/1010.3003&embedded=true

  7. Stewart Lewack said:

    Len,

    I think you’re on to something. As a media relations professional, I find that social news sharing is creating a powerful echo chamber in the news cycle — for better or worse. You can also see this effect on link aggregating web sites such as Linkfest.com, where its algorithms tend to amplify certain highly shared stories at the expense of others.

    I wonder… is there anyone out there tracking ticker/company mentions by these influencers against daily trading volumes?

  8. Len Costa said:

    Thanks all for the thoughtful comments. One additional angle on all this is the extent to which Twitter magnifies volatility/systemic risks (or not). I’ll be watching this closely. Here are a few recent links for those who are interested:

    http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/04/24/should-bloomberg-be-afraid-of-twitter/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/business/media/social-medias-effects-on-markets-concern-regulators.html?pagewanted=all

    (And a contrary view: http://www.howardlindzon.com/people-are-speaking-markets-are-reacting-fears-are-falling-and-hackers-are-gonna-hack/)

    What does all this connectivity mean for the investor? Howard Lindzon, co-founder and CEO of StockTwits, says it best:

    “The news that affects the market is in everyone’s hands immediately with Twitter – so learn to live with this. I personally am standing further away from the pipe as ever, dipping in to the flow but not trading from it. I am constantly curating my streams for the people that provide the best context and most reliably deliver the best headlines. If you are ignoring it and day trading, you are really at a disadvantage going forward.”

    (Read more here: http://www.howardlindzon.com/who-really-caused-the-flash-crash-of-2013-twitter-ap-hackers/)

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