My goal to learn something new every day
Yesterday, Sophia Khan (@SophiaKhan4) posted The thing about a $hit observation on her blog. It’s a great post, and I suggest you go and read it. But this post is not about the content of Sophia’s post as such, more about the title, or more specifically the title on Twitter.
After reading the post, I hit the Twitter share button at the bottom of the page and thought nothing of it. Until I received this tweet from @AnneHendler.
Neither did I, Anne, and nor, it seems did others (ELT folk that is) on Twitter. Anne was referring to the ‘$hit’ that was part of the article’s title. Twitter had automatically turned it into a link. Anyone vaguely familiar with twitter will know about hashtags. Simply, you create a hashtag by typing the # symbol before a word/phrase in your tweet (without the space), for example #KELTchat. All that Twitter does in this case is create a clickable link that searches the rest of Twitter for exactly the same word or phrase after the # symbol. Hashtags have been around for as long as I’ve been on Twitter, but they weren’t there right at the beginning.
Hashtags were the idea of a guy called Chris Messina, and adopted by Twitter in 2007. You can read Chris’s blog post about how he came up with the idea here.
But back to the $ tag. I did a bit of Googling and found that adding a $ in front of a word also turns it into a link. Rather than being called a hashtag though, it has come to be called a cashtag. Cashtags can be used on Twitter to talk about a publicly traded company. The idea is that you put the $ symbol before a company’s stock ticker symbol. For example, if you wanted to discuss Google, you could write $GOOG. As far as I can tell, the cashtag is just doing exactly the same as the hashtag: Creating a clickable link that searches for all tweets containing the same word.
While it is designed to be used with a company’s stock ticker symbol, there’s nothing stopping you from creating your own cashtags with any word, much like the $hit that I inadvertently used when I tweeted Sophia’s post. Although I’m not the only one to have done so:
It appears that Twitter launched this feature back in 2012, and announced it with this tweet:
Most of the articles online about cashtags come from this time, for example this one on marketingland.com, this one on newser.com, and this one on scripting.com. However, Twitter may have tried out the feature earlier, as this post from wired.com in 2009 was already talking about it back then.
Like hashtags, cashtags weren’t originally the idea of a Twitter employee, but were already being used by another site. StockTwits started using the $ symbol before Twitter for users to talk about specific stocks. StockTwits describes itself as a “A financial communications platform for the investing community.” The header at the top of their website clearly shows their use of the $ symbol as an integral part of their site.
According to various blog posts, the founder of StockTwits, Howard Lindzon, was not happy about Twitter’s adoption of the the $ symbol. At the time, he wrote the following on his blog:
I am disappointed of course that Twitter is hijacking our idea and time (will only confuse the masses), but Stocktwits moved beyond that basic functionality 4 years ago. In a dirty way, it’s the ultimate compliment so we will take it as such for the moment and keep rolling out functionality that makes us the best real-time communication platform for people that love stocks and markets.
Obviously the cashtag is not as widely known as it’s older brother, at least not among non-financial people. Within the financial community, it looks like they are used quite often. The following is the abstract from an online journal that I found:
The popularity of Twitter goes beyond trending topics, world events, memes, and popular hashtags. Recently a new way of sharing financial information is taking place in social media under the name of cashtags, stock ticker symbols that are prefixed with a dollar sign. In this paper we present an exploratory analysis of cashtags on Twitter. Specifically, we investigate how widespread cashtags are, what stock symbols are tweeted more often, and which users tweet about cashtags in general. We analyze relationships among cashtags and study hashtags in the context of cashtags. Finally, we compare tweet performance to stock market performance. We conclude that cashtags, in particular in combination with other cashtags or hashtags, can be very useful for analyzing financial information and provide new insights into stocks and companies.
So there you go, another Twitter tool to add to your RTs, #s and @s.