There is a rapidly growing online community of online investors. But, despite the critical mass we are obtaining, our community is still in need of a central hub for exchanging ideas, nurturing new investors, and venting frustrations. Yahoo!’s investing forums are probably the most active, but those forums are widely criticized for lacking some of the most basic features available in modern-day forum software. I had thought that Google Finance might be able to gain some traction with their integration with Google Groups, but as of now the “Discussion” section for most stocks is underutilized.

One of the problems any site in this space will have is the fact that we already have so many websites we go to for information on investing. There’s Google Finance and Yahoo! Finance for basic research and maybe MorningStar.com for fund-related research. Then there’s the blogs we subscribe to for commentary and tips, traditional news site for general business and economic news, and charting sites for more technical analysis. We watch CNBC and Jim Cramer on TV, read books like those by Phil Town. And after all of that is done, we still have to go to E*Trade, Ameritrade, ScottTrade, or some other place to actually make the investment. And (don’t stop me now) we still have separate sites for handling our 401(k)s, ESPPs, and IRAs. I think I see where I’m going with this.

Google and Yahoo! do decent job of bringing stock data and news together. I especially appreciate the blog search that Google shows on their site. Still, there is much more these sites could do in terms of building a community or tapping into the online masses to analyze stocks and companies.

SocialPicks.com and StockTickr.com are two new websites that are trying to get on that short-list of sites you use to research and comment on stocks. I’ve signed up for both sites this weekend and played around a bit. Here are my first impressions of the alpha version of SocialPicks and the free version of StockTickr.

SocialPicks.com
SocialPicks is currently in a private alpha; an invitation is required at this time to gain access to the sign (let me know if you’re interested, and I might be able to send you one). Despite its alpha status, the site is very functional.

Of the two sites I’ll be reviewing today, SocialPicks is definitely the nicest looking. But it’s not just easy on the eyes, the design makes for a site that is very easy to navigate and use. Individual sections of the page are separated using a style that will instantly remind you of the Google Homepage. Among other things, the SocialPicks homepage has a tag-cloud section listing popular picks and a section listing the “top experts” ranked by “wins” and “losses” on stock picks.

SocialPicks HomePage

There’s also a “Front Page News” area on the homepage showing articles submitted by fellow SocialPicks members. You can click a button to “save” the news item which functions similarly to “digging” an article at digg.com. News items can be sumbited via a form or through the news tab. This page displays a news feed including articles from Reuters, AP, USAToday.com, and other sources along with a save button which will automatically populate the URL and Title sections of the news submission form. Users can also add brief comments and tags to the article before submitting.

The meat of the SocialPicks site is in the handling of amateur stock analysis. Stocks can be access through the many reports on the site, including the “All-time Popular Picks” list, or by entering a ticker symbol into a search field at the top of the page (the search recognizes common company names as well). A search for “Microsoft”, for instance, brings up a landing page showing the current price and % gains for the day along with a Yahoo!-style 1-day chart. Also included are popular tags that SocialPicks users have assigned to this stock and a section with the heading “People picking this stock also pick”. The “also pick” feature is a great way to discover new stocks and really at the heart of social investing.

SocialPicks Stock Info Page

Below the stock data on the stock information screen is a section showing the most saved news posts pertaining to the stock and, the most important section of all, a list of written analyses by SocialPicks users who have “picked” or are “watching” the stock. Users can “cheer” (or vote up) a analysis to show their support.

Users can also reply to an analysis. Replies are not shown on the stock information screen, although a link showing the number of replies is displayed next to the analysis blurb.

Adding your own analysis is easy, involving just a couple of steps. You can analyze a stock without “picking” it and even include a reference URL to link back to your blog or related news item.

SocialPicks User Info Page

StockTickr.com
StockTickr has been out for a while now, launching (out of beta) February 27th this year. Where SocialPicks seems to revolve around user submitted analysis of stocks, StockTickr is focused more on the raw numbers. Users can add analysis only after adding a stock to their “watchlist” and cannot reply to other users’ analyses. Still, the site seems to have gotten a fair amount of usage over the past couple months and has a larger data set than SocialPicks at this time.

StockTickr Home Page

One of the most useful features of StockTickr is the report showing “Most Profitable Trades in the Last 14 Days”. However, a pro subscription is needed to see what lucky (or smart) fellows have been making these trades. The assumption there is that you would then being able to see what trades these people are making now and take part in their next wins. You can also see which tags have been most profitable, which can give you a rough idea of what industries or sectors are performing well.

StockTickr Reports Page

Other reports are restricted to… ahem… pro subscribers which seems to be where it is at with this site. I can’t blame them for trying to profit off their nice work, and in fact I like their business model. They do offer a 30 day free trial to the pro subscription; so I may sign up for one to give it a go and see what the difference is. The most obvious advantage is the previously mentioned ability to see who is most successful and follow their trades, but there is also a “trading journal” and advanced stock charts (which are available on other site, but would be nice to see from within the StockTickr pages).

StockTickr also has a pretty excellent blog. The blog is updated daily and features interviews and articles, including this one on how to profit in the market using StockTickr.

StockTickr Stock Info Page

Conclusion
Social investing is a web application that has obvious benefits to users and is sure to take off soon. Will one of these sites become the official hub for the online investing community? They definitely have potential. StockTickr would come much closer to that goal with a better commenting system. SocialPicks seems to have all the right features, but are they tackling too much at once? I hope they can stick it through because I really like their stuff.

Visit SocialPicks.com (blog).

Visit StockTickr.com (blog).

I spoke with Jason Fang, chief marketing guru, of SocialPicks over the phone about a week ago and was very encouraged to say the least. The success of SP’s being able to monetize itself and differentiate its brand from the likes of stocktikr and other finance-related websites will depend on its ability to adapt quickly to the needs and wants of the market. Today’s web2.0 user is very fickle and will go where he or she sees the most value. As I’ve found out, SP is constantly making changes to its website content and appearance in line with users’ comments. I am excited to see whether they will do a number of things such as have a “Jim Cramer” member so that others can track his stock picks, host trading competitions, and give users the ability to go short, and inherently use margin. Regardless, its exciting to see even the novice investor getting feedback on his or her investments and bounce ideas off of others.

http://www.predictwallstreet.com, is interesting because it aggregates all of the users’ predictions of a particular stock and essentially gives the probability of the stock increasing or decreasing in value the very next day. Of coure, the only problem with this is that the system is essentially working as a form of collective or group intelligence and if the users are not very knowledgable then obviously the degree of accuracy will not be very high. I like socialpicks because if a user doesn’t want to state why he or she added a stock to his or her portfolio other users can only take his recommendation at its face value. Therefore they have to go off and do their own research and come to a conclusion on their own as to whether a particular stock is a good value. That said, the social networking aspect of the site allows you to connect with users who you’ve deemed to be accurate and most helpful in making your investment decisions. As if you couldn’t tell by my posts regarding SocialPicks…I’m a fan. I also heard that Forbes will be coming out with a small article or blurb on the site so I’m interested to read it when it comes out. Happy Investing!

Thanks for nice review on SocialPicks. I am fed up with Yahoo message board where information volume from bashers make it difficult to effectively find relevant information for my own research. Would like to try SocialPics, can you send an invite?

We’ve just released a new version of SocialPicks. You’ll notice a number of new features, including a brand new Stock page, Person Page, and a new “picks” page that’d allow you to get new ideas based on a number of metrics (e.g. sectors & industries).

Still lots of works ahead. We’ll make the site available for public access soon.

Weiting
Co-Founder, SocialPicks

—I checked out the changes and if you are familiar with socialpicks already, you’ll love the changes!!! This is still my favorite investing website!

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