Tech & The District » Tiger Woods Tech the way we see it: insights and musings on technology PR, policy and the District, from H&K’s D.C. Tech Team. Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:06:44 +0000 en hourly 1 Tiger and Twitter: The Road to Redemption? Fri, 19 Nov 2010 22:37:39 +0000 Ben Breit Nine words. That’s all it took to set the Twitter world abuzz with gossip and speculation. No, it had nothing to do with your friend’s ground-breaking tweet about the sandwich he was eating at that particular moment, nor was it related to your cousin posting a twit-pic of her dog dressed in a Halloween costume – though we have no doubt that Jasper made an adorable lobster.

What we learned Wednesday is that a nine-word tweet is all it takes – when your name is Tiger Woods.

11:40 AM EST, @TigerWoods: What’s up everyone. Finally decided to try out twitter!

Within two hours, he had gained 30,000 additional followers.

Before we delve into this, allow us to offer a little background. Tiger Woods – formerly the #1 golfer in the world – joined Twitter on June 26, 2009. That day, he tweeted three times: one referencing his new Twitter page, one referencing his Facebook page, and one referencing his new website. In the 17 months following, Tiger’s Twitter page had not been updated a single time – until Wednesday, that is.

We’ll spare you the soap opera, but suffice to say that the Tiger Woods we knew in June 2009 is a far different person than the Tiger Woods we know now. You might recall how Tiger handled the initial aftermath. A maddeningly vague post on his website after the car crash, followed by weeks of silence as his mistresses grabbed their 15 minutes of fame one by one. Finally, after more than three months, he came forward to admit his wrongdoing in one of the more anticipated and, ultimately, awkward press conferences in recent memory. But, as we all learned in PR 101, a few months of a feeding frenzy feels more like a few years. The damage was inflicted.

All of which brings us to a fascinating hypothetical: what if Tiger Woods had taken to Twitter sooner? Could social media have saved him?

The short answer is no. Tiger’s transgressions were spectacular enough and the circumstances bizarre enough that he was going to take a sizable hit no matter how he handled it. Still, could he have used Twitter to at least soften the blow and shorten his road to recovery? Absolutely.

Like it or not, Twitter has evolved into a critical tool for crisis communications. With Twitter, you don’t need to worry about getting taken out of context by an overly ambitious journalist. It effectively eliminates the middle man and allows celebrity users the opportunity to quickly and efficiently reach their desired audience. Tiger missed out on a golden opportunity to broadcast his perspective directly to his many thousands of followers, most of whom were already pre-disposed to liking and supporting him.

It is certainly true that the nature of his actions dictated that there was only so much he could have done via social media (or any outlet) to stop the bleeding. But perhaps Twitter could have benefitted him by combating elements of the story that weren’t true. Remember, in addition to his later confirmed affairs, wild rumors and innuendo flew regarding alleged drug use and violations of the law – none of which have been substantiated since. Perhaps he could have utilized social media to issue immediate and forceful denials, set the record straight, and possibly nip some of those stories in the bud.

Rather than at least trying to get out in front of the story and define it on his terms, Tiger let the story define him. In turn, he got swept up in a feeding frenzy for the ages and played a starring role in the most epic fall from grace in decades.  Can Tiger get back to top form personally and athletically. As a Ryder Cup fan, we hope the answer is yes! Only time will tell.

Tiger – welcome to Twitter. If only you had taken to it in November 2009 rather than November 2010…

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