Zane Bannink, a high school senior in Wisconsin, said that he has used the Robinhood stock trading app since he turned 18 two months ago. So far, he’s made over $800.
Jude Folmar, a 19-year-old college student in Dallas, said he’s been trading stocks since he was 13 under a custodial account his great-aunt helped him set up. He’s earned over $22,000.
And Liam Gavaghan, a 21-year-old university student in Kingston, Ontario, started trading about six weeks ago. He now spends hours scanning Reddit message boards focused on finance and talking to his friends about potential trades in a Discord voice chat room. He has made more than $9,000 on an initial investment of roughly $1,900 — money that he received as part of Canada’s Covid-19 stimulus relief package.
“It’s risky as hell,” Mr. Gavaghan said about trading stocks. “But holy cow, it’s almost like getting a high.”
In the world of high-stakes finance, these three new entrants might have once been outliers. No longer.
They are part of a legion of young people — primarily male — pouring into digital trading floors in recent years, raised on social media and eager to teach themselves about stocks and trade quickly using an array of apps catered to Generation Z. In just a few short weeks, this new cohort of retail investors has completely upended some of the most professional traders by coordinating over social media, forums and chat rooms to trade shares of GameStop, sending the stock price for the video game company skyrocketing while leaving a number of sophisticated short-sellers holding the bag.
Their motivations run the gamut: Many are unapologetic, cash-seeking capitalists. Some consider themselves idealists, would-be 99 percenters who were too young to occupy Wall Street in the movement’s heyday. Some are nihilists who simply want to tear down a system they feel is rigged against them from the start. Then there are those kids just doing it “for the lulz.”
What many of them have in common, though, is that they buy and sell equities regularly, right from their smartphones, while posting their gains, or “tendies,” to online forums, all out in the open for their peers to see. They often view the trading as a sort of video game, similar to chasing a new high score on a puzzle app or accumulating likes on an Instagram post.
Their impact on the market has been nothing short of extraordinary. GameStop’s stock has seen violent swings, with daily percent increases jumping into the triple digits. Pressure on investors who had previously “shorted” the stock — a bet that the price would drop — nearly bankrupted at least one hedge fund. Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, has made the group of Redditors his cause célèbre, cheering them on in a series of tweets this week. At the same time, numerous Wall Street analysts railed against the traders, arguing that they had made a mockery of the markets.
The blowback against them has even made for strange bedfellows in Washington. Politicians on both sides of the aisle united briefly in their contempt for Wall Street’s response to the young traders.
- Shares in GameStop, the video game retailer, have soared because amateur investors, starting on Reddit, have bet heavily on shares of the company.
- The wave gained momentum in response to large hedge funds short selling GameStop stock — basically they were betting against the company’s success.
- The sudden demand has driven up the share price from less than $20 in December to nearly $200 on Thursday. On paper, anyway.
- It’s not just GameStop. Amateur investors have backed other companies that many big investors had shunned, such as AMC and BlackBerry.
- This bubble around GameStop may force big investors to raise money to cover their losses, or dump shares of other companies.
All the while, the band of misfit traders continued laughing — all the way to their digital banks.
“I’m just sitting here on Reddit, looking at the numbers grow up and up and up,” Mr. Gavaghan said, marveling at the enormous gains the GameStop stock has made in the past few days.
The young traders are propelled, and empowered, by technology. Companies like Robinhood, a trading app aimed specifically toward market newbies, advertise across social platforms, enticing young users with no transaction fees, immediate access to instant deposits and a fun, user-friendly interface. On Thursday, Robinhood said it was raising more than $1 billion to grapple with an extraordinarily high volume of trading.
And they turn to online communities to talk stocks and strategies with one another, on platforms like Discord and Reddit, most notably on the forum r/WallStreetBets. The foul-mouthed, meme-heavy group debates stocks and discusses trades in a way that feels native to many high school and college students.
Daniel Uribe, 21, a college senior in San Diego, said that he discovered WallStreetBets five months ago after a YouTuber he follows, named Big Boss, made a video about the group.
“I wanted to be part of the excitement,” Mr. Uribe said. He figured he might be able to make some cash, too. “There’s a lot of stuff that the older generation doesn’t realize even exists. We have different ways of making money that they don’t understand.”
WallStreetBets is by no means all young people. The demographics of the Reddit forum, which now has over six million people, are broad and encompass out-of-work boomers, earnest millennials and hyper-online children. However, the camaraderie in the community is something many young traders said they were drawn to.
The forum has its own language. They refer to winnings as “tendies,” and it’s customary to celebrate a large gain by dining on chicken tenders. WallStreetBets investors praise those who have so-called diamond hands, meaning they hold their stock or continue to invest even when the stock price dips.
Having diamond hands is seen as a form of bravery, even if it sometimes appears irrational, and investors celebrate such resolve with diamond and hand emojis in their comments. Conversely, having “paper hands” is seen as a sign of weakness or cowardice, and indicates a willingness to fold or sell stock after a dip. All of this in-crowd lingo spills across the web to YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and more, becoming memes within memes.
Louis Weimer, 20, a college student in Pittsburgh, signed up for Robinhood as soon as he turned 18, like many of his peers. He liked that it didn’t charge huge fees and allowed him to trade small amounts of stocks, key for a college student on a small budget. He put $200 in it that he’d amassed from working at a grocery store and bought stocks in companies that he recognized, like Apple and Microsoft.
WallStreetBets had been on his radar since the beginning. He came across the community on Reddit and checked it on and off to keep track of trades. Mr. Weimer said that he and his friends would often discuss stocks. “Both of my roommates here at school, they’ve got investment accounts and we talk about our trades all the time,” he said.
Like many traders his age, Mr. Weimer has never been taught anything formally about the stock market. His information is gleaned from the internet and conversations online. He learns through watching YouTube videos on how to diversify a portfolio or when to time a stock buy.
Mr. Bannink, the Wisconsin high school senior, said he had friends who had been trading throughout high school under their parents’ accounts, posting about wins and losses to Snapchat and Instagram, and he wanted in on the action.
With Robinhood, “you’re able to put it on your homescreen and flip between Instagram and Snapchat; it doesn’t feel as serious as it used to,” he said. “It’s just an app you open up on your phone, there’s graphs, and numbers, and it’s easy to understand and learn really quickly.”
Mr. Folmar, the 19-year-old in Dallas, said many minors had found ways to bypass the age restrictions on the trading apps.
“It’s very easy to get past that 18-year-old requirement,” he said. “You can take a picture of your mom or dad’s Social Security card and set up an account.”
Many young traders get their information from the video app TikTok, where financial advice and stock trading tips often go viral, reaching tens of millions of users.
“TikToks suggesting which stocks are good to buy, explaining what’s going on with GameStop, and explaining the stock market as a whole, have come up on my ‘for you’ page,” Mr. Bannink said. “When I don’t understand something going on I just hop on YouTube and look up a video and there’s almost always multiple videos explaining it pretty clearly.”
“In the next few years, as more of us are turning 18, a higher percentage of people are going to start investing on their own,” he said. “You can download an app and put it next to the other apps you go to on your phone every single day it becomes a lot easier to just do stuff yourself.”
Mr. Bannink said that traders like him were different from day traders of the past. Losing all your money, after all, stings much less if your general lifestyle doesn’t change and you’re still living at your parents’ house.
“We’re more of a fearless group of traders,” he said.
Many young users on the WallStreetBets forums have complained that no matter what they do, the deck is always stacked against them. Many say they seek to expose the entire financial system for the game that it is. Meme stocks are part of that. Some will hype up a novelty stock or trade it as a stunt.
“You know how we have memes that become super popular and everyone uses them for a while, then they crash?” said Zaid Admani, 29, a financial TikTok creator in Texas. “Those stocks are like that.”
Though most Gen Z traders were too young to remember many details of the 2008 financial crisis, they witnessed the impact of it on their families. Some saw their parents lose their job or their house, and have watched those older than them struggle for years to make ends meet. They are hyper aware of income inequality and the disparities in access to wealth in America.
“Everyone who is my age has grown up with some different type of understanding of money because of 2008,” Mr. Weimer said. He said that he and others his age felt frustrated that they weren’t ever given a chance to even get a leg up.
“It should be an even playing field,” he said. “Anyone can do their own research, it’s all fair game, so why should the system be so favorable to people who have more money?”
Kellen Browning contributed reporting.
TikTok Expands Creator Tipping and Video Gifts, Providing More Monetization and Marketing Options
TikTok continues to expand its creator monetization tools with the addition of video tipping and virtual gifts for regular uploads, in addition to live-streams in the app.
To be clear, live tipping and digital gifts have been available for selected live-stream creators via its Creator Next program since last year. This new expansion brings the same functionality to regular TikTok videos, which will add another way for users to generate direct income from their TikTok videos.
As you can see in these screenshots, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra (via Dan Schenker), to be eligible for the new Creator Next program, users will need to have at least 1,000 followers, and will need to have generated more than 1,000 video views in the previous 30 days.
Though TikTok does note that these requirements vary by region – TechCrunch has reported that creators need to have at least 100k followers to qualify in some cases.
As explained by TikTok:
“The new Tips feature allows people to directly show gratitude to creators for their content, much like recognizing exceptional service or giving a standing ovation. As is standard for tipping in person, with Tips creators will receive 100% of the tip value.”
Tip payments will be processed by Stripe, with creators required to sign up to manage their earnings in the app.
“With Video Gifts, also available today, creators can now collect Diamonds not only by going LIVE but also by posting videos. This also gives people an all-new way to interact and engage with content they love.”
That will provide expanded capacity to generate real money from posting, without having to go live, which will open new doors to many TikTok creators.
In addition to this, TikTok’s also lowering the threshold for those who can list their profiles in its Creator Marketplace brand collaboration platform, which enables businesses to find TikTok influencers to partner with on in-app campaigns.
Up till now, creators have required 100k followers to qualify for these listings, but now, TikTok is reducing that number to 10k, which will further expand available opportunities for both users and brands.
That could make it much easier to find relevant creators to partner with, in a lot more niches, which will add more considerations into your TikTok posting and engagement process.
As noted, these are the latest in TikTok’s broader efforts to provide comparable monetization opportunities, in order to keep its top stars posting to the platform, as opposed to drifting off to YouTube or Instagram instead, which have more established monetization systems.
The advantage that other apps have in this respect is that longer videos can include pre-roll and mid-roll ads, facilitating direct monetization, which TikTok can’t utilize given the shorter nature of its clips. As such, it needs to look to alternate funding methods, which will also include eCommerce listings, with direct product displays now the primary source of income for the Chinese version of the app.
The platform’s continued growth facilitates even more opportunities in this respect, with more brands looking to tap into the various opportunities of the platform, and partner with creators to maximize their presence.
How popular, and valuable, direct tipping and gifting can be is more variable, as some dedicated fan bases will pay, while others will see no reason to donate for what they can already access for free.
But even so, it adds more opportunity, and the lower thresholds for monetization will see many more opportunities across the board in the app.
Shorter Videos Are In Demand. Here’s How Different Social Media Platforms Are Reacting.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
With TikTok and Instagram Reels slowly conquering social media marketing, there’s no mistake: Short videos are in demand.
The average length for most, if not all, business videos is only six minutes long. And that number is set to decrease as consumers look for shorter videos.
With that in mind, why are short videos in demand? What platforms are implementing short-form videos the best? And most importantly, how can they benefit your business?
TikTok – Changing consumerism, one video at a time
Where shorter videos are concerned, TikTok has always led the industry. What started as a merger with Musical.ly quickly became one of the world’s most powerful social media platforms. And what made it so famous? The same concept that made Vine viral short videos.
TikTok has over 1 billion active users, twice as many as Snapchat and Pinterest. For reference, Twitter only has 397 million users. With such a massive user-base, the only thing keeping the platform alive are the 15-second-long videos.
But why are short videos so popular? Simple – people don’t have time on their hands. When they open apps like TikTok and Instagram, they’re more likely to spend time watching shorter videos. And businesses are already catching up.
The impact of Instagram Reels
With the invention of Stories by Snapchat, other platforms like Instagram caught up on short videos. Instagram Reels presents adults and young users with a more straightforward way to tell others about their day. It employs quick photos and videos that are only available for 24 hours instead of being permanently posted. Now engagement is encouraged, especially after Instagram included the “Swipe” option. This has allowed e-commerce sites to both advertise their products and make instant messaging easier.
Youtube has joined the bandwagon
While YouTube is more or less a platform for long-form videos, its recent update offers shorter vertical videos. Known as YouTube Shorts, the feature allows creators to engage with their audience in under 60 seconds.
But YouTube has another trick up its sleeve, and this one is mainly towards advertisers. It is “YouTube TrueView” and is the primary advertising technology for YouTube. Through this, advertisers can promote long or short videos, with some being skippable after five seconds.
However, since most people are unlikely to click on longer ads, YouTube now offers 6-second non-skippable ads. The clickthrough rate for shorter 15 and 30-second ads is around 70%, a whopping number for any business.
It’s time to say goodbye to IGTV
With Instagram’s IGTV coming off as less captivating than its Reels and video posts, it has decided to remove IGTV. Instead, it has a separate section for videos. These videos will appear on a person’s profile and can be viewed from the Instagram app.
The change they made here is that videos posted to the Instagram feed can be up to 60 minutes long. The exact reason for doing this is not confirmed. But it seems like Instagram wants a seamless platform where short and long videos co-exist.
This makes long videos more accessible to users using the Instagram app. And it helps promote video tutorials that people typically do not consume on social media apps.
Another significant change is that Instagram videos that are longer can be monetized, a feature not available on Reels. This significantly shifts the focus towards creators who don’t sell a service and want to gain cash through Instagram.
Does this mean long-form videos are out of the picture?
With short-form videos becoming more popular among consumers, will long-form videos die out? While it’s highly recommended for any business to create videos as short as possible, the answer isn’t that black and white.
While short-form videos will drive traffic from new users, long-form videos are better for brand loyalty. Shorter videos will get more engagement and show up on new users’ feeds. But longer videos will be the backbone of your business.
Of course, that depends on what service you’re offering. Ecommerce companies will want to direct their attention towards short-form videos and ads. However, long-form videos are better suited for when you want to go in-depth about product details. That is, of course, only after you’ve grabbed the user’s attention with a short-form video.
Companies that offer webinars will benefit from longer videos. And so will companies that post interviews. However, promos and how-to videos should remain under a minute or two, depending on how long the tutorial needs to be.
Essentially, ask yourself two questions:
- First, can the video content be summarized in a short-form video?
- Do you want to merely catch the attention of the consumer or develop brand loyalty?
The correct formula is neither short nor long, but a mix of both.
What this all means for an entrepreneur
Short-form videos hold substantial market value, especially for new businesses. Take the example of the Dollar Shave Club. What started as a viral video on YouTube grew to become a behemoth of a brand.
And that’s not where the examples end. There are countless success stories like this one that prove the value of short videos.
Short videos have a higher clickthrough rate, and for entrepreneurs, that’s all you need. Short videos are of particular interest to people with ecommerce businesses. For example, 84% of people say they are more compelled to buy a product by watching a video. And the statistics keep on showing a friendlier short-video market.
There is no doubt that short-form videos are gradually creeping up the graph. And while long-form videos are great for information and brand loyalty, shorter videos are better for PR.
This begs one last question: Are videos beneficial for you? The answer is – yes!
How to Make a TikTok Video: Beginners Start Here
And with 1 billion monthly active users, it’s time to join the action and get your brand out there to a wider audience!
Want to learn how to make a TikTok Video but don’t know where to start? Don’t sweat it! We broke down all the steps and tools you’ll need to make a viral-worthy first video and make sure your debut is anything but cringe.
Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to prioritize and plan your social strategy in 2022.
How to create a TikTok account
First things first, you’ll need to create a TikTok account.
There are different ways to sign up for one: you can use your phone number, email address or social media account. Here’s how to do it using your phone number.
1. Download TikTok from Google Play or the App Store.
2. Open the TikTok App on your iPhone or Android.
3. Click the “Me” or “Profile” icon at the bottom-right of your screen.
4. Choose a method to sign up (we’re choosing “use phone or email”)
5. Enter your birth date and phone number (make sure this is accurate because it’s how you’ll retrieve passwords and confirm your account).
6. Enter the 6-digit code sent to that phone number (see, told ya!)
7. You did it! Celebrate by scrolling TikTok for too many hours.
How to make a TikTok video
Here’s how to get started on your very first TikTok video. Luckily for you, it’s way easier than learning this TikTok Shuffle dance.
1. Hit the + sign at the bottom of your screen.
2. You can upload photos and videos from your phone’s library or make a video directly using the TikTok camera.
3. If recording directly, hit the Record button at the bottom of the screen. Hit it again when you’re done recording. The default video mode is “Quick” which is for 15 second videos but you can switch it to “Camera” for more editing options and longer videos (15s, 60s and 3 mins), or “Templates” to create a specific style of video.
4. Tap the check mark when you’re done shooting all your footage.
5. Make any edits or changes on the post page. All your edits are on the right sidebar of the screen. Also, add music or sounds by hitting “Add sound” at the top of the screen.
6. Post that video and share it everywhere! Make sure to include a description with some hashtags so it finds its way to your audience.
How to make a TikTok with multiple videos
Instead of taking one long video, why not capture shorter videos and edit them together to make your TikTok video? Here’s how to do that (and you don’t need a film degree).
1. Hit that “+” sign to start your video
2. You can either shoot multiple videos directly by hitting that record button after each clip, building up your video with different shots. Or, you can hit the “Upload” button next to the record button and add multiple videos and photos you have stored on your phone.
3. Select all your media and tap Next.
4. You can now sync sound across your videos and make adjustments (or try “Auto sync” which will do the syncing up for you.)
5. Hit Next when done. You’ll be brought to a preview screen where you can further add sounds, more effects, text, and stickers.
6. Tap Next when you’re done editing your video and proceed to the Post screen.
7. Remember to throw in a description and some hashtags and bingo-bango-bongo you’re the Steven Spielberg of TikTok!
5 things to know before creating your first TikTok
TikTok style is less polished than other types of video
Don’t worry about being too precious with your videos. On TikTok, videos are meant to be candid, and natural—and they should show off your personality. Things like perfect edits, smooth transitions or flawless lighting shouldn’t get in the way of your idea and your own charisma.
Sure, there are lots of editing options, effects and filters to choose from (what the heck is the difference between B3 and G4 filters anyways?) but the real star is you —or, at least all 6 of these friends belting out Lady Gaga for the #caughtinabadromance challenge at this bachelorette. If that’s not candid, I don’t know what is.
You don’t have to dance
Good news! You don’t have to spend 2 hours trying to perfect the LaLisa dance tutorial to make sure your video stands out (unless you want to, then no judgment over here!).
There are so many different ways to engage your followers that don’t involve you popping and locking in your living room in front of a ring light (but again, no judgement if you do, except maybe from your pet and their adorable judging eyes).
You also don’t have to attempt whatever this is.
Hashtags can help more people see your post
It’s no secret a good hashtag can go a long way on TikTok. Strategic use of hashtags will help people find your videos who don’t already follow you, and maybe even see it on their For You Page (FYP).
The right song can go a long way
Attaching a trending song to your video or audio from a popular TikTok video can help it get seen by more people. This app has a big music following (lots of new songs are intentionally promoted through the app to help them climb the music charts) so lassoing your video to one of these shooting stars is only going to help you get on more FYP and in front of new audiences.
Your greatest asset is you
Don’t overthink it, just come up with a simple idea and let your personality shine through. The sense of intimacy and community that TikTok brings is why people love this app—it feels personal.
Even if you’re doing a TikTok challenge or trend that’s popular, the thing that will make you stand out is your unique take on it. It’s not about gimmicks but about putting your best self out there. Nothing should feel too staged or self-aware (that’s cringe territory). Pretend your audience are your good friends and approach it with that energy!
@janikon_No, I can’t re-record this, I’m laughing too hard #fyp♬ original sound – Stu (he/him)
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