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2016 may yet be the first ‘Instagram election’

Jeb Bush as seen with the Amaro filter. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Jeb Bush announced Right To Rise, his Super PAC, Tuesday with two videos. One was in English, one was in Spanish, and they appear to be filmed on a smartphone vertically as Bush walked down a sidewalk.

It may not have been the most polished rollout — for one, everyone knows you're not supposed to film vertically on your smartphone — but it's the type of amateur video you're used to seeing while scrolling through Instagram, which is exactly where Bush posted them.(Also, that he filmed vertically seemed to have less to do with him being unaware of the faux pas than it did with the video being made for Instagram, where video is cropped into a square. Only when he shared it on Facebook could you see it was vertical.).

It's the latest in Bush's string of direct-to-social-network announcements. He has opted to post content himself rather than the traditional route of simply putting out a press release, sharing a message in the exact manner he wants to directly with voters. His December announcement he was "actively exploring" a presidential run was posted directly to Facebook with the headline "A Note from Jeb Bush."

This isn't new, of course. Hillary Clinton announced her presidential exploratory committee with a video in 2007, saying while she couldn't "visit everyone's living room, I can try."

Bush's foray into Instagram is the 2016 campaign version of this idea. But while Clinton's video was professionally lit with multiple camera angles and meant to be streamed into voter's living rooms via computers, Bush's video was shot on a city street and meant to be double tapped on an app on voter's phones. It's a "native" campaign ad for the social age.

Social media is an ever-evolving component of modern presidential campaigns. Barack Obama's tweet announcing his victory in 2008, for example, was only retweeted 157 times, while the 2012 one was retweeted more than 800,000 times, according to a study on social media use in campaigns conducted by a University of North Carolina professor.

Instagram didn't exist in 2008, and in 2012, after winning the election, the Obama account didn't post there until the day after. That photo (which used the Nashville filter, if you were wondering) has been liked about 301,000 times. It's likely the 2016 winner will blow that number away: in December, Instagram announced 300 million monthly users, more than Twitter's 284 million.

Bush is preparing for the possibilities, asking visitors to the Right To Rise PAC website not only for their email address, zip code, and money, but for their Instagram username. There's no field for any other social network.

Instagram may yet be one of 2016's emerging campaign battlefields. Twitter is a social newswires for journalists and political junkies, but its reach is comparatively small. Facebook has the largest reach, but it signaled last year efforts to push back against some campaign efforts to target voters, while Instagram is largely untested. Don't be surprised if one day in 2016, squeezed between your college roommate's brunch photo and a selfie, you see a campaign ad.

This post has been updated to clarify an Obama Instagram account photo.