In the nearly two decades since I wrote the first book on how politicians and political groups use the Internet, surprisingly little has changed.
For the most part, campaign organizations have been doing the same things they were doing in the 1996 Presidential election, with the major changes mostly reflecting the availability of new technology, such as when the Obama campaign made Big Data a priority in 2012.
But one thing that I missed when I wrote "Politics on the Nets" was the role of social media. The reason, of course, is that the social media that we're familiar with now simply didn't exist in those days. But the world changes and even the most perceptive observers can find themselves outdated. Such is the case now.
A good example of the growth in importance of social media can be seen in how this relatively new medium was used in the announcements by the first four presidential candidates as they kicked off their campaigns for 2016.
It's worth noting that so far every candidate and most anticipated candidates are already using social media to get their messages out. Twitter seems to be especially popular, with three of the four candidates using it to formally announce their run for the White House.
It all started with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) who announced that he would announce his candidacy on Twitter, which he did with a simple, "I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support!"
Not long after that, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) did the same thing when he issued an announcement Tweet, "Today I announce my candidacy for President of the United States!"
A few days later, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed suit, "I'm running for president. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion," she said.
In all three cases, the Twitter announcement did indeed precede the official speech, video or other formal announcement, but it seemed almost perfunctory, as if the candidate used Twitter because they knew it was expected so that the candidate could portray themselves as being trendy especially to younger potential supporters. But, it's hard not to look perfunctory when you are announcing a presidential candidacy in a tweet limited no more than 140 characters.
The most recent candidate to announce his intent to seek the Presidency was Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who interestingly did not make his formal announcement first on Twitter, but perhaps demonstrated a better way of using this social media platform.
Sen. Rubio made his announcement in a live speech with his staff live-Tweeting most of the speech as he made it. As a result, the social media announcement came shortly after he made it live in his speech in Miami.
The timing of the announcement doesn't mean that Rubio's social media engagement is somehow less than the other three candidates. First of all, Rubio's staff provided the content of the speech on a minute by minute basis during the announcement, allowing potential backers to follow along even if they didn't have access to a video feed or a television.
Rubio also kept up a continuous stream of Tweets giving a countdown leading up to what he called "The big announcement."