Sarah Palin: Mistress of Social Media.

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 22, 2010
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Update: the below post set off a firestorm of comments on Facebook. Here’s my response. ~ ed.

The “Dark Side of Social Media.”

Keep your friends close, and follow Sarah Palin on twitter.

I’m a fan of Sarah Palin—on Facebook. I follow Sarah Palin—on twitter.

Like her or hate her, Sarah Palin can speak soundbite culture better than anyone else.

For her, shortening her thoughts on a subject to 140 characters is a cinch—it’s the in-depth stuff that’s proven more challenging.

From the Harvard Business Review, on the Dark Side of Social Media. Excerpt:

Sarah Palin can turn a phrase. Hers is not the style of Churchill or JFK; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. And that’s the point. Once we thought of political oratory as speech used to build community, unite people, and inflate the spirit, as in “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Instead, Palin has shown us how it can be used to deflate if not the spirit, then at least the opponent. “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for ya?” she asks, and in no time the line is on Twitter, the clip on YouTube, and is selling it on bumper stickers.

She has a kajillion followers on Facebook (though many of those, undoubtedly, follow her, like me, so we can be aware of her latest spew), and her status is frequently quoted in the media. She rocks Twitter, too:

sarah palin twitter

The HBR article goes on to discuss how social media, like any tool, can be used for good or ill. It’s an obvious point, but one we (including me) tend to forget in the rush of excitement that follows any new technology.

Read the rest of the HBR article here.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


14 Responses to “Sarah Palin: Mistress of Social Media.”

  1. John Chamberlain says:

    I am taking Elephant Journal off my facebook page because of this. This woman is one of the most loathsome Humans on this Planet. I will no longer subscribe to the Elephant Journal

  2. Sally says:

    Sarah Palin's speech writers are very clever at marketing her bumpery sticky phrases, and it seems that all she is after is the cash these kind of meandering speeches pulls in. It's a shame that someone who could gather her fans for GOOD prefers instead to denigrate the media, the government, and anyone she doesn't like that week. Think of what she could accomplish with a sliver of that 15 million dollars? But does she do anything positive? Does she even use her PAC to support candidates as she said? Nope, a tiny amount goes to her candidates of choice, and the rest is used for her plane fare or whatever. She is an absentee mother, a liar, and an opportunist…no wonder she claims to be a conservative. She sure isn't a Christian in any sense of the word. I am praying that the gilt soon tarnishes, and she goes back from whence she came.

  3. integralhack says:

    I'm confused. We know "soundbyte culture" is here, but it ain't "all good" and Palin certainly isn't. Why report on this?

  4. gwenbell says:

    Did you read the Harvard Business Review piece, John? Do you stop reading the Times when they run a photo of Sarah Palin?

    This comment perplexes me.

  5. gwenbell says:

    Waylon's reporting on The Dark Side of Social Media. Article source:

    To repeat his point: "The HBR article goes on to discuss how social media, like any tool, can be used for good or ill. It’s an obvious point, but one we (including me) tend to forget in the rush of excitement that follows any new technology."

    What's there to be confused about?

  6. Sorry we can't agree all of the time. elephant doesn't aspire to be a choir, but to be a fun, robust, caring community willing to dialogue. We'd love to win you back, and you're always welcome to contribute an article and add to the breadth of our coverage.

    That said, please remember that since you read for free. Financially-speaking, your cancellation of subscription won't hurt toooo deeply.

  7. Amen, sister. It's so hard to read an article, when we can just look at a photo and know what we think already.

    Integralhack: this article, or rather the Harvard article, is about social media as a tool. Now, Gov. Palin may be a tool…but she knows how to use social media. It would seem advisable that all those who dislike her views on most issues study her success in communicating to millions of Americans. We may well get to face her again in 2012, or 2016.

  8. Amy says:

    Conservative Feminism = oxyMORON
    Sarah Palin = Accidental Politician Turned Professional Sloganeer

  9. integralhack says:

    Gwen, fair enough. The point (in the referenced article that we need to pay attention to the messaging and strategies of of those that seem to be using social media effectively) is well taken. I suppose I was only really confused by the friending and following of Palin. I responded to Waylon in greater detail above. Thanks.

  10. integralhack says:


    I did read the article, and my light critique wasn't meant to be any sort of indictment (I love you, man!), but your article begins by noting that you friend Palin on Facebook and follow Palin on Twitter. I have to ask why: Is it to learn how to write social media zingers? Friending and following such a person only seems to edify them.

    Personally, I'm not impressed by the Palin messaging. Oh, sure, we can recognize that "Drill Baby Drill!" is a concise message, full of intended or unintended sexual innuendo and anti-eco aggression, but it is only going to appeal to her "real" followers that are of the same ideological persuasion . . . or it might just win over stupid people.

    My concern is this: if we are looking to Palin for tips on how to succeed in messaging, then we are succumbing to the dumbing down of America. We can match her and her ilk tweet for tweet, but nobody is going to be the better for it.

    If we're truly at the idiocracy stage in our nation's development, then maybe this is the only recourse we have. But I am still encouraged that Obama's win over McCain/Palin might still indicate that people want more than a catchy soundbyte. Obama could be pithy at times, but there was usually a well-reasoned argument behind his own soundbyte claims. We need and deserve better exemplars of messaging than Sarah Palin.


  11. ARCreated says:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer…I thought this was a wonderfully kind satirical artical…I felt all yogic how you were able to downgrade SP without being downright bitchy…those that got all up in arms should perhaps re-read and realize that it wasn't PROMOTING sarah…but using her soundbites to make a point. I don't friend her on facebook 'cause I already have to do enough yoga to work through my annoyance at things in the world…dont' need another one, but this article was so Daily Showesque it brought some levity to it and that helps many a bitter pill go down. I would like to thank you for helping me remember to be yogic even when discussing wolf killing hypocritical egomaniacs…ooops I think i forgot yoga again 🙂 LOVE YA

  12. I don't feel so good.

  13. […] post is inspired by a little blog I put together today about the Harvard Business Review’s “The Dark Side of… was adept at using the sound-bite, 140-character culture that social media embodies to insult and […]