The past few weeks have seen a trend on Wall Street that many people would never have expected. It started out as a call to the gaming community to save one of the last big bricks-and-mortar retailers from the US hedge funds that were known to be “shorting” its shares – and then quickly turned into a mass movement that has sent shockwaves through the financial world.

For some of the army of small investors who answered the call [on the WallStreetBets forum on Reddit] and bought shares in GameStop, this has been all about bringing the “corrupt” big beasts of Wall Street to their knees. Others have simply viewed it as a way to make some much-needed money at the expense of hedge funds – the companies that planned to cash in on a popular store’s decline.

Nevertheless, whatever the reason for getting involved, it demonstrated the power of social platforms in driving massive cultural change over a very short period of time. Even though Reddit was the epicentre of this saga, it has not been the only social platform influencing investors. It would be a surprise if people hadn’t seen at least one meme on the topic pop up on their feeds when scrolling through Twitter, Instagram or TikTok (there are even articles dedicated just to these memes). With this exposure, it’s no surprise that people want to see what all the fuss is about and maybe even try to get themselves some stock too (I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been tempted!).

And the hype only increases when you have Elon Musk tweeting a link to the WallStreetBets Reddit page, as seen with the GameStop price exploding another 157% higher following this. This once again shows the power that celebrities can have at influencing people on social media if the topic they’re discussing is authentic to them – something that should be a core element when working with any type of celebrity on social platforms.

GameStop has been the centre of attention in the #memestock rally, but there are several other companies which have seen their share price skyrocket thanks to the Reddit-inspired army. Like GameStop, a number of these have been entertainment companies which hedge funds may have been betting against because of the huge impact of the pandemic on their businesses.

The one that’s seen the biggest rise is AMC Entertainment, whose shares climbed more than fivefold at the end of January. And this new-found attention rescued the movie theatre chain from a $600m debt, as private-equity firm Silver Lake opted to convert its corporate bonds it held into AMC stock. This certainly shows a victory for small investors and the good that social media can do, with consumer-favourite brands like Odeon (whose parent company is AMC) being saved from the brink.

There is now a focus on other entertainment brands that could see a similar flurry of interest. Discovery Inc. and ViacomCBS, while much larger than AMC, have a significant amount of interest, and could be targeted in the future. Still, they both have a story that can be used to “sell” the trade, with Discovery having just launched its new Discovery+ streaming service, and ViacomCBS set to launch Paramount+ this Spring. It’s trends like these that we, as trusted consultants for some of the largest entertainment companies in the world, need to be aware of and discuss regularly with our clients.   

This new trend of investing has brought new people into the world of Wall Street and many will be keen to continue that adventure, especially as they’ve seen the influence that social media can have in moving markets. This power is going to have to be monitored as there is potential for it to lead to dangerous outcomes if the wrong people manipulate the market. However, for us as communications specialists, we should see it as an opportunity to follow real-time consumer conversations through social data to help inform our media strategies for clients.