In 2010, I got a call from a large hedge fund in London with a Twitter problem.

Traders were using iPhones to access Twitter to follow breaking news. Management at the hedge fund was concerned they would tweet, possibly violating securities rules. 

I realized what the firm wanted was a “read only” version of social media piped into the news feed on the Bloomberg screens that already dominated their desks.

This gets at a fundamental truth about how financial professionals use social media that may not be obvious to consumers: they look at Twitter as just another flow of information.

They may pay attention to the source because some outlets are more reputable, but fundamentally they want use Twitter to find trading ideas, not to have a food fight.

Traders also want to scan tweets about companies, such as Tesla, or topics like the Fed or OPEC or inflation. That wasn’t (and still isn’t) really possible on Twitter itself. 

It was clear what was needed, but it wasn’t easy.

I negotiated a deal with a vendor for Bloomberg to carry tweets (at the time Twitter didn’t sell the information directly.) The back and forth took a couple years.

Next, a group of engineers in the news team set about solving the problem of eliminating spam and tagging the tweets with topics and company stock symbols.

This is a big deal and harder than it sounds.

Investors want to see tweets about big issues affecting companies, such as earnings. They don’t want to search for social media about JPMorgan and find a flood of posts about broken ATM machines.

They also want to monitor social media for market moving news, such as the announcement that Elon Musk was acquiring Twitter.

Musk has started talking about how he wants to change the company, including reducing the number of ads. One topic he Musk hasn’t addressed is the feed business.

Musk has three options: a) leave it alone b) charge more c) give it a way for free.

The last option is the most intriguing. You could imagine a scramble to build all kinds of new services on top of the data that would be available via APIs.

It might result in less revenue in the short term, but a stronger ecosystem over the longer term.