Members of Congress looking to boost their Instagram followers might want to take a page from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's book and snap a picture of Beyoncé.
At the second congressional hackathon Friday morning, the California Republican described how he exponentially increased his followers after posting a photo of the singer and her husband, rapper Jay Z, at President Barack Obama's 2013 inauguration. McCarthy was explaining the value of members using social media themselves, rather than having their staffs manage the postings, when he recounted that fateful shot.
Prior to the inauguration, McCarthy said a tech magazine listed him as the top political Instragrammer based on his insider pictures, even though he only had 65 followers at the time.
“I was excited about the article but it made me nervous," McCarthy said Friday. "I said, 'I better pick up my game.'”
The inauguration was a prime opportunity to get some photos of what it was like on the inside, and to collect some political memorabilia. After swiping the presidential-sealed cover of Obama's water glass, McCarthy said he saw Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., followed closely by Beyoncé.
"Paul Ryan is a good friend of mine. Paul ran for VP at the time and did not win. And behind Paul is Beyoncé. And I’m a big Beyoncé fan," McCarthy said.
“And so I’m thinking, great opportunity for a photo, right?" he continued. "So I tell Paul to wait. He goes, ‘What?’ I go, ‘Beyoncé’s coming. I want to take a picture.’ He goes, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Look, had you won, I don’t think she would have been here.’”
"And I'm thinking this is my moment," McCarthy later added. "So I’m out by the front part, so I go, ‘Beyoncé, would you like your picture out here?’ Nobody's out there and she goes, ‘Can I do it?’ ‘Oh yeah, I got the power, c’mon.’”
McCarthy said he then took the picture with his phone, and was not aware that television cameras were also catching his photo shoot. The next day, he said his Instagram followers shot up from 65 to 5,000.
McCarthy was trying to explain to the group of staffers, techies and activists gathered Friday how technology, even in small ways, can help lawmakers reach the public.
"The extra followers weren’t following me because they all philosophically agree with me," McCarthy said. "But there’s something of interest. Then I can take an opportunity to talk to them. Maybe they didn’t think about what their government’s doing or what their government should be better at. But technology’s going to let them inside a view and help them think about something else as well.”