Former House speaker Newt Gingrich will announce Wednesday that he is officially running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, according to his spokesman.

Gingrich will make the announcement via Facebook and Twitter — a bow to the power of social media in politics — and then will sit down for an interview Wednesday night on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel show, Gingrich aide Rick Tyler said.

The former congressman from Georgia is expected to make his first formal speech as a candidate Friday at the state’s Republican Party convention. He is also scheduled to appear Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The announcement is not terribly surprising, as Gingrich has been eyeing the contest for months. He even had a bit of a false start in early March, when one top aide said he was in the race, only to be contradicted by other members of Gingrich’s leadership team.

The presidential bid is a culmination of Gingrich’s long political career, which has seen him rise from a backbencher in Congress in the 1980s to the architect of the 1994 Republican revolution that gave the GOP control of the House after four decades in the minority.

The new Republican majority elected Gingrich speaker of the House, and he was touted as a potential presidential candidate. But he resigned from the House four years later after making wrongheaded predictions about the 1998 election and amid tumult in his personal life.

Since then, Gingrich has built an empire of outside groups — organized under the umbrella of an entity known as American Solutions — designed to put forward his policy ideas and to raise money for conservative causes.

Other Republicans continue to watch the 2012 campaign. Former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are expected to formally enter the race soon. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. is also moving toward a bid, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is expected to make a final decision on the race by the end of the month.