As the poet Yogi Berra once quipped, “Nobody ever goes there anymore – it’s too crowded.”
While Berra was talking about a popular Florida restaurant in the early 1960s, he could have easily been talking about WallStreeBets in the summer of 2021, as many of the very retail investors that made the message board into a financial phenomenon are now abandoning it for newer subreddits, saying WallStreetBets has been compromised by mainstream finance’s improved grasp of the power that social media has on the movement of markets.
WallStreetBets became a household name in January as GameStop GME, -1.32%, AMC Entertainment AMC, -4.66% and other meme stocks announced their arrival in the form of wild short squeezes that put Wall Street on its heels, and hedge funds in hot water.
The irreverent and insidery tone of the message board gave users a platform to share stock tips and rage against what they saw as unfair market structure rigged to benefit big banks and funds. It also gave birth to retail investors uniquely risqué way of communicating, calling each other “Apes,” encouraging each other to hold onto short squeeze stocks with “Diamond hands” and lusting after trading profits in the form of chicken tenders, or “tendies.”
Users also began to share detailed investment theses in the form of “DDs” or deep dives, using their own analysis to promote a new stock ticker for the movement to jump in on.
But since January, the success of WallStreetBets has become an albatross, with the board’s moderators coming under fire for what many of the board’s 10.6 million users saw as inconsistent enforcement of the rules and a growing sense that the moderators were playing it too safe in fear of angering Wall Street and regulators.
There is also rampant speculation that the size and popularity of WallStreetBets has made it susceptible to bad actors trying to create pump and dump schemes by spamming old conversation threads with ticker-specific posts that give the appearance of new social media interest in that stock.
Among Redditors who have moved on, WallStreetBets is often referred to as “the melted sub.”
The shift is reminiscent of how retail investors turned on Robinhood after the popular trading app froze activity on GameStop and other stocks at the peak of January’s short squeeze. That decision set off a firestorm of rage against Robinhood with many in the retail crowd alleging on social media that the app was in cahoots with the hedge funds and market makers on the other side of the squeeze.
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Like the Robinhood exodus, the WallStreetBets schism has led retail investors onto new platforms and other subreddits more intensely focused on investing, options and individual stocks. It has even given them the opportunity to create their own boards like r/Superstonk, a subreddit for GameStop investors that started in March with a flurry of anti-WallStreetBets posts and already has 485,000 members.
“WSB is the Robinhood of Reddit,” one user posted on Superstonk this week.
AMC and other meme stocks have their own increasingly popular subreddits, and they appear to be the next iteration of the retail investing movement that is showing little sign of losing steam.
While the mania of January has ebbed, a recent survey by financial advisory firm Betterment indicated that the majority of retail investors are committed to trading in the foreseeable future, and it stands to reason that the evolution of their trading will happen on smaller and more focused subreddits like Superstonk.
As that online migration continues, WallStreetBets — the mothership of the Reddit rally — will have that empty nest feeling.
Meanwhile, after good news on the progress of an infrastructure bill in Congress sent the U.S. stock market climbing again this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.69% having its best week since March, the tech-heavy Nasdaq COMP, -0.06% closing one point shy of a record, and the S&P 500 SPX, +0.33% closing at an all-time high, investors will be awaiting the monthly jobs report for June from the U.S. Labor Department next Friday.