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Popular Boston tweeter becomes business matchmaker

Posted by Christina Jedra  March 28, 2013 10:48 AM

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A screenshot of the new site

With close to 80,000 people already following his @BostonTweet Twitter account, Tom O'Keefe is branching out into the world of business matchmaking.

He is launching, a site that will connect local businesses and residents who have jobs to fill or ventures that need partners. Based on his existing followers, O'Keefe expects most of his members to be involved with marketing, technology, advertising and start-ups. The site will be geared towards business and professional connections and will not assist with personal matters, such as apartment hunting.

Unlike other sites, such as Craigslist or LinkedIn, information exchanged on Boston Ave. will be kept private, with O'Keefe intervening to match up members, who must be approved by O’Keefe but not required to pay. Members will be able to view one another's profiles only after they mutually agree to share information. They can request a connection through the site, specifying what they are looking for. 

For example, if a restaurant owner is looking for a waitress, he or she can send in a request to O'Keefe through the site. If a waitress comes on the site and requests information about restaurants that are hiring, O'Keefe, acting as the middle man, will pair them up. 

“It's helping people shake hands, more or less,” he said.

The new site is a spin-off of @BostonTweet, in which O’Keefe tweets about goings-on in Boston while also allowing people to reach out to him and request a tweet if they are looking to fill jobs or other business needs.  Boston Ave. will give people the chance to send their requests in a more private setting, “behind-the-scenes and under the radar,” he said.

O’Keefe said Boston Ave. will assist anyone with a viable request, including businesses seeking employees, students trying to find internships, or people looking for business partners. He said he created the site as a bigger platform for businesses to connect -- to “scale those [connections] in a larger sphere.”

Networking is something that O'Keefe thinks is crucial, especially in a smaller city like Boston. As he met more and more people through his Twitter account, he wanted to give Boston residents an easier way to connect.

“Business is always about making connections,” said O’Keefe, adding that while knowledge is critical, “It's all about who you know.”

A Brookline resident and Boston College graduate, O’Keefe, now in his 30s, first joined Twitter in 2007. When the site was in its infancy, there wasn't much information exchanged about the goings-on in Boston. Because he was frequently out tweeting about Boston, he created the @BostonTweet account in November of 2008.

O'Keefe's original intent was to use the account to keep himself occupied until after the holidays, and then to begin looking for a “real job” in January. 

“It was more just to kind of document my life about going out in the city at the time,” he said.
But by the time January came, @BostonTweet already had become popular. With a growing number of followers, O'Keefe was approached by companies such as Groupon, which wanted him to make inroads for them. For a monthly fee, O'Keefe made connections for Groupon with people the company wanted to reach. He also tweeted about the company -- at his discretion, he said, explaining that he is opposed to tweeting for money.

He now has shifted his contractual arrangement to Pingup, a smartphone app that allows users to text local business to order take-out, make appointments, call a taxi and more.

Having Tom O’Keefe partner with Pingup and “act as a brand ambassador” has been “an invaluable asset for us,” said DadeSokoloff, marketing director forPingup. “People in Boston do more than 'follow' @BostonTweet - they trust Tom and his advice.”

As he launches the new venture, it appears that O’Keefe has found his “real job.”

“Now [the account] has definitely become more personal,” he said. “It's my full-time job.”

This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of a collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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