For Tiger Woods, mediocre social media use works

As a fan of the 2010 Seattle Mariners, I became very familiar with the phrase "regression to the mean." In the realm of sports, regressing to the mean normally implies that an athlete performing far above their head will fall back to earth and start performing more on-par with their career averages. With the Mariners, it was the opposite. If the likes of Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley started moving towards simply being average, that would be a good thing.

Now, with Tiger, coming back to the field would normally be bad. But in terms of public perception, Tiger Woods is as low as any athlete. Like the pitiful 2010 Mariners (I am the only person in the history of the world to make a Tiger Woods/2010 Mariners comparison), regressing to the mean would be a great.

What does Tiger need to do in order to regress to the mean of public perception? He simply needs to start acting a normal athlete would.That started yesterday as he used his Twitter account to interact with fans the same way every other athlete does: a simple Q&A.

Here's a small sample of what took place. For more, take a look at his full feed as he hasn't updated since that session.

As you can see, there's nothing overly profound here. There's no insight into what he's thinking or going through as he, the ultimate competitor, comes off his first winless season as a professional. It's all very average. And that's the thing, Tiger cannot get back to being adored (that's making the huge assumption that he will be once again) without first moving through being average.

This approach will not work for everyone. In fact, it probably won't work for anyone looking to stand out and make a difference using social media. But for Tiger, who'd love to simply fall back into the pack and not stand out, this works perfectly.

Photo credit: rjdudley

As an aside, the greatest part of the Tiger Woods Q&A was the meme it generated, of which NBA blogger Trey Kerby absolutely dominated. A selection of the best:

.@TigerWoods On a completely flat surface with no obstacles, how many cartwheels could you do in a row? (No stopping to catch your breath.)

.@TigerWoods In 1998 were you a "Deep Impact" guy (a Deepsy) or an "Armageddon" guy (Armageddomaniac)?

.@TigerWoods Who would win in a fight — toothpaste or a pine cone?

.@TigerWoods Are or are not flannel shirts the best?

In covering Tiger, newspapers should do as bloggers do, break 'fourth wall'

This Tiger Woods saga serves as an anecdote for the striking polarity between mainstream print media and less 'upright' online outlets. As days go on, this coverage becomes more and more ridiculous but, at least in the early stages, this is a story the populace wanted to know about.

As the story moved from "Tiger was in an accident and it may have been caused by a domestic dispute" to "Let's count the mistresses," newspapers obviously wanted out. There comes the separation between some online outlets and newspapers: covering what people want to hear about vs covering what they believe should be covered.

As long as the publication isn't going too far in either direction, neither is wrong, but if you're choosing to hold back on coverage, it should be communicated why.

Robert Niles of the Online Journalism Review says that newspapers should break down that 'fourth wall' and communicate with their readers.

At that point, a news organization that wants out of the story - and I commend those which do - ought to be honest with their readers and admit that. In theater, there's a phrase called "breaking the fourth wall" - which refers to a character breaking from others on stage to address the audience directly. (The "fourth wall" surrounding the scene is the imaginary one that separates the stage from the audience.)

Bloggers do that all the time. Newspapers and broadcasters need to do that more often - to drop the "character" of a disconnected voice and instead talk directly to readers about coverage of a particular story. If a story you're following is slipping into tabloid territory, fully report the circumstances, then get an editor into the story to explain why the publication is bailing out. If you don't want to report allegations about affairs, say so.

That's a far more honest report than excluding those details from the story, especially when millions of readers are already talking about them. Breaking the fourth wall allows journalists to show that they trust their readers with all the information that they have, that they won't hold out on readers, and that they are willing to be honest with their readers about why and when they choose not to pursue a story.

This is a great approach and something that should be done much more frequently in the world of mainstream media. I won't go as far as to say that newspapers are complete disconnected from their readers but there are certainly times when one feels like they're telling us "Hey, we know what's best for your and this is why we're the journalists and you're not." Sometimes, 500 words from the editorial team can go a long way.