I admit that I am a bit of a political news junkie. I’ve been interested in politics  since my childhood and, while the necessity of this particular Canadian election is questionable, I still get excited when I think about exercising my right to vote.

Its been interesting to watch this campaign as political parties and politicians themselves try to overcome the reported complacent attitude of the Canadian people through a variety of methods. While the tried-and-true baby kissing and hand shaking of the past is still prevalent, the amount of action on social media networks cannot be ignored.  Whether it is tweeting their location or posting photos of rallies on their Facebook page, politicians are hoping that the current obsession with all things online will culminate in a record number of people at the polls on May 2nd.

While the results of that strategy are impossible to predict, there are ways to apply this strategy to small business.

1. Resistance to social media is futile.
Politicians have embraced the idea that the world is communicating instantly and online. When small businesses apply that truth to their own scenario the marketing possibilities are endless.

2. Everything is Public.
The Tories were criticised for seemingly “un-friending” someone on Facebook when the friend in question posted photos of herself with the other political parties leaders on her own Facebook page.  While arguably petty, the Tories probably didn’t really think their action would be a big story until it made national headlines simply because it happened in the public domain.
The lesson for small business here is a stern reminder that what happens online doesn’t stay online. Very quickly actions in the virtual realm become as much a part of your brand and reputation as your carefully designed logo and meticulously kept office. We would never consider being careless with client care or marketing material, likewise this should apply to all social media communication.

3. Keep it real.
Politically, the best users of social media are the ones who don’t use stock answers or rhetoric but instead connect with their followers. Likewise, a business owner who wants to harness the power of the web needs to commit to relevance and authenticity online. In other words, don’t just use social media as a way to disseminate information but also use it to listen to your clients and prospects and react to what they have to say. It’s a big undertaking – but can be very worthwhile in the end.

Finally, regardless of your political leanings (and don’t worry, I am polite and Canadian enough to keep my own views to myself) I hope that skepticism hasn’t robbed you of the joy and responsibility you have been afforded by living in a free nation – and that you have every intention of heading to the polls with me on May 2nd

In the meantime, let your voice be heard. Follow the leaders on Twitter, check out their Facebook sites, find your local MPs’ blog. If nothing else, you could get some good ideas to apply to your own business.