From the dormant twitter handles to the sporadically updated blogs, it’s pretty easy to see that social media strikes fear into your hearts.

I get it. Social media is a medium of the people, by the people, and for the people. At best you end up looking like Senator Cory Booker, and at worst you end up on Politiwoops or have an Anthony Weiner moment. But the Pew Research Center reports that approximately 73% of online adults use social networking sites. You really can’t (afford to) ignore the central role social media plays in your constituents’ lives.

Case-in-point: the 2008 presidential election. Much has been written about the Obama campaign’s use of social media in tapping into the young Gen Y/Millennial vote – for good reason.  Exit polls showed that Obama had won nearly 70 percent of the vote among Americans under age 25—the highest percentage since U.S. exit polling began in 1976. The campaign revolutionized how Americans view social media channels – and how we expect our elected officials to use them.

With midterm and gubernatorial elections right around the corner, now is the time to improve and expand your social media presence. Here are a few tools to get started:

  • Engage, don’t preach: Your followers want to know that their voices are being heard. Sure, pushing out messaging serves you, but how does it serve your constituents? Be open to responding (appropriately) to followers, and using your Twitter handle, or Facebook page as a constituent services tool – a la Cory Booker.
  • Optimize your channels by consolidating: Focus on promoting your content on two to three channels – you want to consistently populate and engage on these channels. A good starting point is developing Facebook, Twitter and a blog. 
  • Use social media to target constituents: Which voters/constituents are you trying to reach? You can use different social media channels – and corresponding content – to reach different segments of the population. For example, use a branded YouTube page to respond to your supporters’ concerns and communicate what you are working on. Videos are widely sharable and touch a range of online users.
  • Try something new: Google+ hangouts and Reddit AMAs (“Ask Me Anything” forums) are a great way to interact, answer questions, and show constituents the “real you.” Digital savvy users will appreciate that you took a risk and are willing to have fun with social channels.