Yesterday, the voice of Tiger Woods hit Twitterfor the first time and a flock of followers came to make sure everything Tiger says appears in their timeline.
Woods told Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio and ESPN2 this morning that his interview, his piece in Newsweek and his Twitter feed was about reconnecting with his fans.
The first question to ask in regard to Twitter is, will this really be Tiger or just some person he hired to tweet for him?
Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, told CNBC it will in fact be genuine Tiger.
"He committed to doing some things a bit different and this is another example," Steinberg said.
OK, so assuming it's Tiger who is really on Twitter, the next question is, how good will he be?
Unlike Facebook, where celebrities and brands can collect friends or fans without much commitment, Twitter is a meritocracy. If you use Twitter as a tool to absorb information, you can't possibly follow more than, say, 700 people. That means that the average person can't follow everyone and is forced to pare down their lists and unfollow people who don't bring it.
Athletes, in general, are consistently bad and often represent the world of Twitter that everyone makes fun of. The lunch order, sharing pictures of their friends and getting people involved in hollow banter.
Lance Armstrong, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade aren't among the top athletes followed because they are the three biggest athletes in the world. They are followed because they bring it. They use Twitter to bring fans closer to them.
In Tiger's world, Stewart Cink and Ian Poulter aren't necessarily the most popular golfers. People want to follow them because they are fun. They give you the inside scoop on what it is like to be them.
While Tiger has showed a fun side in his commercials, he is better known for being quite closed and conservative. Is the new Tiger willing to open up more? He didn't show much of it during his "Mike & Mike" interview on Thursday morning.
"He's not an open person, it's just not who he is," admitted co-host Mike Greenberg, after the interview. "It's not in his nature to open himself up in any way."
During the 24-minute interview, which included a commercial break, Woods picked up 1,356 new followers or 57 per minute, according to Eric Smallwood of Front Row Analytics, a sponsorship evaluation firm.
But Woods showed some promise this morning, before the interview, when he tweeted, “The best part about phone interviews is getting to wear shorts.”
So what does Tiger really have to gain from being good at Twitter? How about becoming more valuable to brands?
Woods lost three sponsorships in wake of the scandal, so he clearly has space in his endorsement briefcase.
"Twitter is a measurable tool that brands and agencies are using to evaluate athletes moving forward, so as he tries to rebuild his sponsorship portfolio, it will only help to bridge the gap between what was and what will be," said Ed Kiernan, senior vice president of sports for GMR Marketing.
Kiernan says Twitter can help humanize Tiger.
"He's potentially opening up and doing things he hasn't done before and that gives him one-on-one touch points with consumers," Kiernan said.
In the 22 hours after Woods started tweeting (through 9:08 a.m. ET on Thursday morning), he picked up a total of 97,660 followers, according to Smallwood. (He started with about 93,198 followers from an account opened last year.)
Building an audience that quickly is not an accomplishment. That's to be expected.
The fact that LeBron James picked up 500,000 followers in his first week on Twitter isn't telling. The fact that it took 122 days to get his next 500,000 followers might suggest that James isn't providing what people want to see from him.
So the true measure of whether Woods is any good at Twitter is to see how many followers he has by the start of play next year. If Tiger is any good at the social media game, he'll have more than 2 million followers by the first week of January.
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