Investing in companies you like is a double-edged sword. Sure, you may know more about them and be able to make an informed decision when it comes to buy or sell their stock. Still, there’s emotion involved and simply liking a company doesn’t make it a good investment.
What then if you were able to gather input from millions of others who like or don’t like a given company, in order to get a more accurate sense of successes and failures.
That’s the idea behind likeFolio. Co-Founder Andy Swan explained his company to Yahoo Finance’s Phil Pearlman:
We try to find investing opportunities for individual investors and we do that by searching all of english-speaking Twitter (TWTR) for mentions of brands or products that are owned by publicly traded companies. And then we can take that data and look for trends in the marketplace, consumer behaviors that are changing that might be an indicator of future earnings or revenue betas or misses for companies that are publicly traded.
A perfect example, Swan says, is JC Penney (JCP). The battered retailer has enjoyed a surge in positive comments online of late according to likeFolio’s data. Earlier this week that manifested itself in a solid holiday sales report. JC Penney says sales in November and December were up 3.7% year over year and expects a 4% surge for the entire fourth quarter.
One success , however, doesn't make for much of a trend so Swan gave two other examples to keep an eye on. He says Disney (DIS) got a lot of social media chatter over the holidays based on Frozen, even a year after the hit movie was released.
His other pick - Bebe (BEBE). The women’s apparel retailer is down more than 50% in the last year but likeFolio notes a lot of very positive mentions that could lead to more sales and better stock performance.
“What we do is look for outliers,” Swan says. “We look for changes in consumer sentiment that are statistically significant compared to the past.”
The model doesn’t work just for companies themselves but also big brand ambassadors like, say, Oprah Winfrey.
Swan points out that while plenty of her tweets are perfect examples of successful self-promotion, she also gets behind products and that has a real impact on bottom lines. Right now she is tweeting a lot about the Tea that bears her name at Starbucks (SBUX).
“You look at that and think ‘how many people is that influencing?’ It’s got to be millions and millions of people that are getting exposed to a new product at Starbucks just because she likes it and is involved.”
While all the information likeFolio culls can be very useful, Swan still cautions investors, “We don’t think of social data as a magic bullet to make you money time and time again easily.” Rather, it’s just another arrow in investors’ quivers.