Like we’ve said before, the 2014 election is a prettttty big deal. It will decide which party controls Congress, and significantly set the stage for the 2016 Presidential Election. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to break the mold and use today’s innovative digital tools to give your campaign the edge it needs to win.

Social media will prove to be an even more crucial tool for political campaigns in 2014 than for campaigns back in 2008 and 2012. Social media is a key source of voter information. Social media is one of the major activities on mobile devices. And social media is a great way to connect with voters on a personal level.

If you’re just getting started (or you’re in over your head!), we’ve put together this list of 7 best practices for social media and political campaigns to get you started. We hope you enjoy!

Consistency is key.

The number one rule of social media is to be consistent. By this, we don’t mean “keep doing the same thing”—you should always be experimenting with new trends, features, and strategies. Consistency is most important when talking about frequency. Your social media followers will expect you to tweet, blog, or post on a consistent basis—and if you don’t, they’ll go listen to someone who does.

No Ghost Towns

If you join a network, be prepared to be active on it. This is the corollary to consistency being key. It’s important, when choosing social media platforms (and there as SO MANY to choose from), to be picky about where you put your efforts. You don’t want to overextend yourself, or start using a platform only to drop it a few weeks later. That’s wasted effort, and social media is all about the long game—you’re building a relationship with your audience, and a relationship takes time.

Each Platform Has a Distinct Language—Learn to Speak It!

One of the most common social media mistakes people make it sharing the same message in the same way across all the social media platforms. The platforms are different—from the reasons people use them to the way they use them. Understanding each platform’s subtleties is the first step to creating messages that will resonate with your audience. You can find a good breakdown of the “Big Four” (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr) here, although some would argue that Instagram has overtaken Flickr in relevancy. Other important networks to consider are LinkedIn (especially for campaigns that focus on business issues), Pinterest (especially good for reaching women and people in the education space), and Google + (for reaching people in the tech space and for SEO purposes).

Listen to Your Audience

Have you ever heard the old adage, “Listen twice as much as you speak”? This is still true in social media! Social media shouldn’t be a bullhorn you use to blare your message out at the world—it’s more like a ticket to an event where you have the chance to connect with your voters, donors, and supporters on a one-on-one basis. Setting up a social listening strategy can help you to keep abreast of what’s already being said about you, participate in the conversations that matter, and gauge the temperature of your audience to better direct your publishing strategy.

Use Social Advertising to Expand Your Reach

Another title of this section could have been, “Social advertising isn’t cheating! It’s using your resources wisely.” As forces like the Facebook algorithm change and increased competition have made it harder to connect with an audience organically, social advertising has become a viable way of drawing in audiences when you want them to take a specific action. And that’s the main “best practice” with social advertising—only employ it when there’s a specific action you’re prompting users to take (i.e. “Donate now!” or “Tell your friends to go vote today!”). Social ads have actually been proven to make or break an election—learn how to use them in your favor!

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Social media platforms are becoming increasingly visual, and your posts should follow suit. Social media is a war of attention, and a beautiful photograph or an informative graphic is a great way of winning the battle for your audience. Even on Twitter, the wordiest of the platforms, tweets with images see a significant improvement in clicks, retweets, and conversions. And you don’t have to have an in-house designer to participate (thought it doesn’t hurt!). There are lots of online tools, many of them free, to easily create engaging graphics—check out 14 of them here.

Keep Learning!

The most important guideline of all! Social media changes fast, and what’s in this week could be out next week. There are always new platforms popping up, and old platforms are constantly evolving. One of the best ways to keep on top of this is to follow leaders in the space—you can find many of them on Twitter, or by searching for social media best practices and seeing which names keep popping up. Also make sure to keep and monitor a list of other campaigns that are doing social media well—when they change course, you’ll know to reexamine your own approach.