Tom O’Keefe: @BostonTweet steps out of the Twittersphere

Tom O'Keefe of @BostonTweets said aTwitter empire is not an easy task. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro
Tom O’Keefe of @BostonTweets said aTwitter empire is not an easy task. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro

It’s an understatement to say that Tom O’Keefe has mastered the art of social media. O’Keefe has collected a Twitter following of more than 114,000 people under his twitter handle @BostonTweet by sharing Boston buzz with city dwellers, and those whose love for the Hub transcends borders.

As part of its Bold Bostonians series, Metro sat down with the Upstate New York native to learn a little about the man behind the tweet, and get the dirt on how he’s built his Twitter empire.

How was @BostonTweet born?
I used to work in the startup field in the late 90s, and I was totally addicted to that unbelievable time. It was fun, cool, challenging. I had two startups in 2008, which sort of crumbled. That’s when I started Boston Tweet, as a last ditch effort to try not to work in an office ever again. Twitter was pretty new. It was a couple of years old. I was tweeting about local business during a downed economy, so it was about value in the city, and where to go for cheap eats. I really thought it was going to be a ghost town in Boston, like the stuff you saw in 1920s. [Boston Tweet] grew from there.

How did you gather such a following?
I spent every single day for five years providing good content, and knowing my demographics. There was no spike – maybe a little one during the [2013 Boston Marathon bombing], but I didn’t tweet that much about what was happening, only the really important information. I get about 100 followers a day, give or take. If I do a giveaway its about 200.

What subjects are Bostonians most interested in?
It depends. The demo is really focused on the one in three population in Boston, people aged 20 to 34, who live in the city, and use the Red and Green Lines. Stuff right now getting tons of attention is the late night MBTA service. When I first started tweeting about the public pianos last July the response was overwhelming. I could tell it would be a massive hit. And the Cape Flyer train to Cape Cod has caught on. Some things are really duds, and you can see it’s not going to work because there’s no bite to it. It’s such a large audience, and it’s interesting because it gets an immediate reaction.

How many hours a day on social media?
I only spend between five and ten minutes a day, not really a lot. I’m extremely selective. When I first started I’d tweet about almost everything happening. It was overwhelming to try to keep up.

@BostonTweet Tom O'Keefe. Photo: Twitter
@BostonTweet Tom O’Keefe. Photo: Twitter

Do you think it’s a necessity for businesses use social media?
Certainly business can make it without it. Most places in Chinatown are not on Twitter and they do really well. And in the North End too, there are some old school businesses, and none of them are really on Twitter. Others are phenomenal at giving locations a really personal touch [online], sharing when people get engaged at their restaurants, and tweeting out food photos. You create a connection with them, which makes you want to come in and meet them

What about public figures; do you think they have an obligation to be online?
Yeah I do. People like the mayor, the police commissioner, and celebrities should use it, because you can hear directly from them; hear their voice. If Marty Walsh has something to say, he doesn’t need to call the press, he can say it right now. Marty’s been doing really good with using Twitter and Facebook chats. He’s creating a visual of himself just to show that he is actually a real, living person.

What’s your advice for people who want to grow their following?
I get that question a lot. Every time I give my answer they hate it. It’s really difficult. I can see why people give up on tweeting; if you’re talking, and no one is listening. But if people want a strong following on Twitter, or their blog, it’s about marketing strong content, and really focus on a niche audience. Boston Tweet is for people who just have an interest in Boston. It’s tough to tell if they liv in Boston, but I would say over 75% still live in the city the rest have a love and interest in Boston.

Tell me about your new #DownloadBoston initiative.
Most people don’t know all the startups based here. It’s not like you can walk by a new startup and see that they exist. It’s a super simple site [DownloadBoston.com] with the basic concept of trying to create awareness for Boston-based startups. My goal is to work with local retailers, hotels, cafes and restaurants to put them front and center, and get more of a national exposure for us too. On a national scale our [startups] are not covered like launches in D.C. I do have passion for the city. It’s a great place to live. The great thing about local businesses is that the people that own them are usually there, and I think it’s a much better experience. It’s about keeping money local and keeping jobs local, and the more in the city the more people we hire, so it’s great.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

National

Donut capers stymie police in Oregon

For more than a month, mysterious vandals have been smearing pastries on cars, depositing donuts in lawns and leaving cakes strewn about the streets.

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.