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Making Wall St. Click With Silicon (V)alley

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Social media is not a fad; it's here to stay. If you don't believe that - this little blog post will not be very interesting and you might as well hit the back-button and return to Twitter, tumblr or Facebook...

Social media has been widely recognised as a must-have in many industries. Many companies still aren't sure exactly how to use it - despite the best efforts of providers like Salesforce.com, Podio, Yammer, and others trying to introduce social media to the enterprise world. These providers have highlighted that social media is not a train you want to miss, and while most corporations understand this, many still struggle to navigate the social waters to how best to incorporate this paradigm into existing businesses models.

Social media is fundamentally different from past leap-developments in communication. It's not about who allocates the biggest budget anymore - which has been the case ever since the Mad Men days - it's about who uses social media the smartest. Finding an angle and figuring out how your particular business can benefit from the features that social networks offer is paramount.

For everyone in the communications and media industry, this has been pretty straightforward. To them, Twitter (as an example) is a means of reaching thousands if not millions of users instantly with real-time updates. For fashion companies, Pinterest is a fantastic way to show off what's gonna hit the runway next season. For gaming companies, it's about providing a new dimension to the gaming experience and for the music industry, Spotify and YouTube has been a great way (aside from a few lawsuits) to reach fans worldwide. Hell, we've even seen the car industry making cars that you can friend on Facebook.

However, one industry that seems to be falling behind is the biggest of them all: the financial industry. The Bank of America (prior to the Merrill Lynch merger) was among the first to really embrace social, opening an outlet on twitter, with a bit of help from Marc Benioff & Co. I remember waiting with great anticipation for a new wave of social banking initiatives to arrive, and for social to help banks turnaround the increasingly difficult situation they found themselves in...but that never really happened.

Many traditional banks are still not getting it, despite their activities becoming more retail across their respective business areas. Take a concept like retail trading - the high growth area on Wall St, offering electronic services to retail investors and day traders that allows them to engage in trading financial markets such as Foreign Exchange, stocks and commodities. None of the traditional players in this space have really created products that have a social hook-in at the core and as a result, companies like StockTwits - and even Twitter - are now taking matters into their own hands, with the recent launch of their "cashtags."

There is a gap between using social media as a tool and making it part of your company's DNA. I'm not saying that social media is the panacea for all of the world's problems -- but I'm saying that it represents a new opportunity to innovate within the industries that typically don't have a track record of re-invention.

However, mixing the social world with the world of trading takes something more. Twitter could try and re-invent the trading world, but would never succeed, since it doesn't know enough about trading. On the other hand, a traditional large bank could try and create a social network focused around trading, but it would never gain a critical mass to be a true social success. Rather, mixing the two would yield a better outcome.

That is tradable's hypothesis at least. So as an experiment, we recently did the first ever financial hackathon (https://vimeo.com/47586099) in New York City, inviting traders and coders alike, to get creative with the tradable API and create new experiences around trading. Not surprisingly, many of these apps were social, including hook-ins to twitter, tumblr and Facebook. It became clear that when developers had the resources to understand trading fundamentals, and a foundation and access to proper trading APIs, mixing social experiences with trading became a much more manageable and rapid process.

Social still has to find its role on Wall St., but in order to do that, it needs some guidance from Silicon (V)alley... and it starts with a simple 'Hello'.