Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., wished her Capitol Hill colleague Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a very happy birthday via Twitter on Friday. "Happy Birthday [Darrell Issa]! Since it's Friday, this calls for a special #FridayKitty," Bachmann wrote, tweeting out a picture of a cat.
While this tweet may seem ridiculous to some, it's actually indicative of Issa's successful social media strategy.
In June, capitalizing on the popularity of websites like Lolcats and Buzzfeed, Issa introduced the Friday Kitty hashtag. Each week, Issa posts a picture of a cat to Instagram, and then Twitter, as a way to have a little fun, but also sometimes push a political message. For instance, a more recent #FridayKitty showed a cat fussing with the Obamacare website. "I tried to sign up for health care. It said no," the meme read.
Issa was the winner of this year's "new media challenge" between members of the House GOP, Whispers has learned. His committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was named as a top finalist as well, in a competition that was styled like basketball's March Madness. (Reps. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. were not far behind.)
TrendPo, which analyzes all sorts of political trends, powered the data for the contest, which was put on by the House Republican Conference. "Over the course of the summer, Darrell Issa and his social media team were tremendous at finding viral content, sharing that with their followers and really maximizing their social reach," said TrendPo CEO and founder J.D. Chang. "He's connecting with constituents and audiences in a way that's different than 'campaigns' or press releases," Chang said, speaking specifically about the Friday Kitty hashtag.
As for why a congressman would be tweeting out pictures of cats, Chang explained that cats and the Internet have a relationship that goes way back. "I would say when YouTube first started, funny cat videos were one of the easiest ways to get viral," Chang said. "[And] because cats are tremendously cute," he added.