He orders. He takes a picture. He tweets. Tom O’Keefe, the man behind BostonTweet, has been eating his way through the city since early 2008, entertaining his 50,00 followers with every post. Despite the fame he’s grown accustomed to, O’Keefe is just a regular Bostonian, with a big appetite.
And he’s no stranger to Charlestown and Charlestown is no stranger to what he is doing with BostonTweet.
“BostonTweet is all about life in Boston, things to do of value in the city, food and drink deals, news, pics, burritos, and where I am,” reads O’Keefe’s Twitter profile. He visits a lot of locales on the Red and Green line, giving him a fierce collegiate audience.
“I get recognized a lot, especially on the Red and Green line. Everyone’s been really amazing and very outgoing. I get asked for suggestions and my followers also give me tips,” said the Boston College graduate.
O’Keefe earns his meals with a healthy sponsorship from Groupon, an online website featuring a plethora of discounts on restaurants, spas and activities in various cities. His familiarity with Boston restaurants makes it easier for Groupon to propose deals to those restaurants to be featured on the website. But O’Keefe doesn’t receive compensation for any of his tweets, still having the freedom to eat wherever his stomach desires. He respects his followers and wants to continue their trust in him of eating without a bias.
“I get pitched for kids stuff, like Gymboree, but it’s not my focus,” said O’Keefe, whose followers tend to fall more in the category of single, living in the city and looking to go out. “I have a lot of college students that follow me,” he added.
In between bites of his grilled cheese sandwich at The Thinking Cup (165 Tremont Street), O’keefe’s passion for what he does became more evident. This is a man who loves Boston, loves food, and above all, loves talking about it.
“I tweet everything I eat,” he said. “It’s not like I’m eating everything on the plate, though. I’m very active. I like being under the radar and going to dive places. I like eating burritos more than anything else.”
Some of his favorite eateries are Anna’s Taqueria (best burritos), Boloco (another tasty Mexican spot), Eastern Standard (nicest affordable restaurant), jm Curley (cool, casual bar), Publick House (one of the best beer bars in the city) and the Warren Tavern (great burgers and fabulous people).
After dabbling with failed internet start-up companies, O’Keefe needed something to bide his time. He thought of BostonTweet after considering it as a viable way to create awareness for local businesses during a period when they could surely use some publicity. After a few months, it became a full-time commitment.
“I just happened to get in at the right time,” O’Keefe reflected. “There weren’t too many food bloggers on Twitter, but someone now would have a tougher time. I think it could work in smaller cities if someone wanted to do something similar, big cities like New York City or Los Angeles are too big. You gotta like what you’re doing, you have to believe in it and you have to be passionate about it and consistent.”
During the week, O’Keefe can often be spotted alone at different restaurants and bars, snapping pictures and sending them out to the Twitter universe for all to see. “Food photos are amazing,” O’Keefe said as his eyes lit up.
He was featured on the popular Boston food show, “The Phantom Gourmet” in October, and has dreams of hosting his own show on the Travel Channel. “I do get a lot of tourists that follow me. The Travel Channel syndicates my tweets because it’s a local perspective for tourists who don’t want to go to Cheers or Fanueil Hall,” O’Keefe said, adding that, “it makes Boston a little more personable…It’s a small town but has everything to offer.”
And with Twitter, Boston is turning more into a city that never sleeps. “It’s always flowing,” O’Keefe said. “Twitter never stops. It’s the best part and the toughest part. In Boston it’s one in the same, my Twitter life is my social life. The more I become known, the more people are interested in where I go.”
O’Keefe doesn’t see himself giving up this dream job in the near future, and he’s smart to hold on to it. His veracious tweets attract a growing fan base, and as long as there is food in Boston, there will always be @BostonTweet.