By Nathan Rudyk

In ramping up for a presentation at the Conference Board of Canada next week, I'm finding it almost too easy to make the case that ignoring social networking in government or corporate communications strategy is like deciding to nip downstairs for a drink at the beach-front bar just as the shadow of a tsunami's wave blocks out the sun over the palm trees.

Let's look at a government example as presented by University of Ottawa and digital advocacy guru, Professor Michael Geist. This week my Pittsburgh-based brother asked me "Do you guys have a government anymore?" He was referring to the Dec. 30th decision by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to progrogue i.e. suspend Parliament, for the second time in a year, this time until March 30th.

Presumably, the Prime Minister's advisors chose Dec. 30th as a time when mainstream media couldn't or wouldn't pick up on the story to the same extent they would, say, if Canadian weren't as a nation focused on things other than politics. The story would just ... fade away. And presumably, they didn't take social networking into account. Yet, as Geist points out, Christopher White, an Alberta University student, "proved the experts wrong, building the largest Facebook group in the country, one that's the focal point for national discussion and voter discontent."

Christopher's digital advocacy group has, as of this writing, 206,676 members. Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe, Canada's four national party leaders, have less than 100,000 members combined on their respective Facebook pages, says Geist. D'oh.

Let's switch gears to some fresh (as of yesterday) stats from Forrester Research (see chart below). As reported by The GigaOM Network's Liz Gannes, Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff has recently observed a “new behavior” in the company's two and a half years of tracking and classifying social technology usage.

There's a new category of social networkers called “conversationalists", or  “people who update their social network status to converse” on at least a weekly basis. According to Forrester, the category is 56 percent female, more so than any other group, with 70 percent aged 30 and older.

These aren't a bunch of "no-nothing kids" with no clout in the world (and if you think that, order another drink at the beach-front bar. Don't pay any attention to that wave thingee). They're voters. They're consumers.

They ... require ... your ... attention. 

And it'll be very interesting to see the numbers on Christopher White's Facebook group on March 30th, and what the Canadian government's fate will be this Spring. Stay tuned.

(Nathan Rudyk is President and CEO with market2world communications inc., Ottawa, Canada's tech PR and product marketing agency.)