Social media makes it easy to stay connected to friends, family – and even your investment portfolio. The rise of social trading platforms allows investors to mimic the movements of their favorite investing influencers. It’s similar to copy trading, in that social traders look at what other top investors are doing then replicate that in their own portfolios. It sounds easy enough, especially for investors who don’t want to spend hours researching stocks or other investments on their own. But there are some pros and cons to keep in mind.
A financial advisor can offer valuable insights and guidance as you create and hone your investment strategy.
What Is Social Trading?
Social trading is an investing strategy that simply involves mirroring or copying another investor’s trades. This is done through social trading platforms, which make it easy and convenient for investors to check out other traders’ activity, then implement those same moves in their portfolio.
It’s related to but not the same as copy trading, in which one investor copies the trades or investments of another. The difference is that there are social trading platforms designed specifically for this type of trading activity. So instead of studying an investor and then copying their trades, you may have an opportunity to interact with them and learn from them to enhance your own investing knowledge.
That doesn’t mean social trading is limited to an app or website, however. GameStop’s unprecedented spike in the first quarter of 2021 is an example of social trading in action. Investors poured money into the stock because of chatter about the company that started on Reddit. Investors from the r/WallStreetBets subreddit led a surge in buying interest, which eventually resulted in a short squeeze of GameStop stock.
How Social Trading Works
Social trading works by bringing investors together into a common platform where they can share trading strategies and ideas. When you join a social trading platform, you can search for other investors, study their trading activity and ask them questions. You can then decide if you’d like to adopt that investor’s trading strategy as your own.
Implementing a social trading strategy may be as simple as clicking a button to mirror another investor’s entire portfolio. Your portfolio would then reflect the same type of trading activity.
This is a simple strategy that a beginning investor can apply. But it can also appeal to more experienced traders who want to benefit from what other investors are doing or share their knowledge with newcomers to the market.
The community that comes along with it may also appeal to investors who want to be able to discuss strategies or bounce ideas off someone else. That’s where the social element comes in – investors are encouraged to interact with one another rather than just replicating trades. It’s like the difference between chatting up the person next to you in history class to start a study group versus just copying off their exam paper on test day.
Is Social Trading Safe?
Social trading can be risky because investors are largely relying on the experience and knowledge of others to make trades. If you’re brand new to investing, you may not know much about stocks or bonds so you look to a more experienced investor as a guide. You’re assuming, of course, that they know what they’re doing.
That’s one type of risk in itself because it’s possible that you may be choosing an asset allocation that doesn’t really fit your risk tolerance, needs, goals or time horizon for investing. There are also unknowns when it comes to what type of performance you can expect and what fees you might pay.
You also have to consider what you’re able to invest in. There are currently only a handful of social trading platforms that are open to U.S. investors and the ones that exist don’t always offer the same investment options that you might find with an online brokerage. For example, eToro started off offering just cryptocurrencies but is slowly expanding its offerings to U.S. investors, though it’s still not available in every state.
So if you live in the United States and you want to give social trading a try, it’s important to consider what the platform will allow you to invest in to decide if it’s a good fit. If your only option is cryptocurrency, for example, that may or may not work for you based on your risk tolerance. Since crypto is generally riskier than stocks, you may be better off sticking with an online brokerage and joining some investment forums or communities instead to get the social connections you’re after.
How Do I Start Social Trading?
If you’re interested in social trading, the first step is finding an appropriate platform that you can join. Again, this can depend on whether you live inside or outside the U.S. From there, you can create your account and start searching for investors to follow.
It may be helpful to spend a few weeks or even a few months following, observing and interacting with other investors through a social trading platform to learn more about them and their particular strategy. A good rule of thumb to remember with social trading or copy trading is that your success is directly tied to the success of the investor that you’re mimicking.
So as you get to know different investors, take a look at their overall track record. How often have their investment picks paid off? How often do they pick losers? How much risk are they taking on and how does that balance against the returns they’re realizing? This can help you find investors who most closely align with what you’re looking for.
Also, think about how much of your portfolio you want to dedicate to social trading. Since the risks may be higher, it could make sense to stick with a smaller allocation, say no more than 5% of your total portfolio. This way, you have some protection against incurring extensive losses in case the investor you bet on falls short of expectations. This can also help with managing investment costs.
The Bottom Line
Social investing is gaining in popularity as more investors rely on each other to guide investment decisions. Whether a social trading approach works for you or not can depend on where you are in your investment journey and where you hope to end up.
Tips for Investing
- Opening an online brokerage account is a good place to get started with trading. You can trade individual stocks, exchange-traded funds and bonds with most brokerages. Some also offer things like options trading, futures trading, crypto trading and investing in initial public offerings. When comparing brokerage accounts, look at the range of investments offered, the account minimums and the fees you’ll pay to trade. The best brokerage accounts offered an optimum combination of low costs, a wide variety of investment options and a positive user experience overall.
- Consider talking to a financial advisor about the pros and cons of social trading to help decide if it’s right for you. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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