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Conor Sen

TikTok Explains the Bull Market Better Than Twitter

The trick is to know when enthusiasm crosses the line and becomes a mania.

Leading market indicator.

Leading market indicator.

Photographer: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Tech stocks have surged to start 2020, lifting the entire market to record highs. But one place you won't find much enthusiasm for the rally is on Twitter. There, you're more likely to read accounts spreading fake news about the coronavirus outbreak or mocking the valuation of Tesla Inc.'s meteoric stock. I have a theory about this: Many of Twitter's most influential voices rose to prominence in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and they carry the scars and skepticism of that era more than a decade later.

Enthusiasm for the rally is easier to find on Reddit and TikTok, newer venues full of participants who may not remember the financial crisis or are more connected to Silicon Valley and the wealth it has generated during the past decade. For that reason, they may be in more in tune with what's driving markets.

Let's step back and compare Twitter with some older media forms. On television, a news anchor -- and in the back ground, news editors and producers -- picks the top stories to highlight, shaping the daily conversation. The front page and editorial page of a newspaper function in a similar manner. On Twitter, however, the dialog is steered by its most influential voices, which can be identified as those accounts with the most followers and highest levels of engagement.

Twitter's history is important to consider here: The platform had its most rapid user growth during the financial crisis and its aftermath. For people interested in financial markets and the economy, there was no better way to gain followers and to go viral than to tweet insightful, engaging or funny content related to the economic downturn and recovery. Out of this era emerged what's known as finance Twitter, or fintwit, powered by a core of influential users now in their 30s and 40s who were shaped by one or even two economic downturns (The first was the dot-com bust of 2000.)