Follow Friday: Boston Duck Tours


boston duck tours

Photo by Boston Duck Tours

On the rise since its inception in 1994, Boston Duck Tours has become a staple for tourists visiting the Hub. With a fleet of 28 ducks, the Duck Tours welcome around 600,000-620,000 passengers a year. and has established its essential presence in our city.

Here, we catch up with Matt Knowlton, project manager, system administrator, and social media coordinator at Boston Duck Tours, to learn about the company’s role in Boston, the healthy competition that goes on behind the scenes, and about a Patriots-related incident.

Follow Friday, At a Glance
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How many people run Boston Duck Tours’ social media accounts?

It’s me and the marketing director, Bob Schwartz. I do the majority of it, but he helps out as well. We’re good together.

How many duck tours have you been on yourself?

Tough question. Probably ten, ten or twelve. I’ve worked here since ’99 so that’s not even one [tour] a year. Actually, I took maybe eight [tours] last year because we just installed a translation system on our ducks that runs off of GPS. I probably took between eight and ten tours in Spanish and in French because we were trying to fine tune where the GPS points queue up. So if you want to count those, I’ve taken ten [tours] or so, plus those eight or so in languages I don’t even speak.

You’ve been with the company since ’99, but when did you switch over to social media?

Probably five of six years ago. When I started working in the office, I created all of the accounts and we were dabbling in social media a bit then, but four or five years ago we really started vamping it up.

What’s been your favorite part about running social media?

Almost like keeping score. I like seeing what posts that I put out there get the most like, the most hits, the most interest, and stuff like that. It’s almost like a game. I do the lion share of it but Bob also does it, so when Bob puts out a post and it gets more hits than mine, I get very jealous—it’s competitive between me and Bob. I also compare it to other people in the industry and what they’re doing.

Do you make it a point to engage with your audience?

Yes and no. If there’s someone out there trying to talk to us, we’ll definitely talk back and carry on a conversation with them. Most of our engagement with people is about hours of operation, where they can get tickets, and the occasional, “I left something on your duck. Can you help me find it?”

What are your goals for social media?

We just like to tell people what’s going on in the city—just be a place of reference. We think a lot of people go mostly to our Facebook page to see what we are and what we’re about, or they’re looking general information. We also know that we’re an hour and twenty-minute tour of the city and the majority of our clients and our guests are in town for much longer than that, so we like to use our Facebook page to not only talk about ourselves, but talk about what else is going on in the city—things to do, places to check out, things like that.

Besides places to check out, what role do you feel your social media presence plays in the community?

Not only do we use it to post what’s going on, but we like to use it to post what we’re doing in the city, what we’re involved with, some of the charities we have going on, some of the events we’re helping out with around town.

In three words, what is the tone of your social media?

I’m not going to lie to you. I read a bunch of the other [Follow Friday] articles, so I prepared myself to answer this. I’d say, “Welcome to Boston,” describes our tone. We find our tour to be an hour and twenty-minute nice overview of the city, and it points out a lot of things that people will most definitely want to go back to and check out. We always say to do the duck tour first so that way you know what’s out there.

What’s the weirdest, most surprising, or most outspoken feedback you’ve received through social media?

When the Patriots won the Superbowl this past winter, there was snow everywhere and it was crazy. There was a lot of back and forth about when the parade was going to go on, so I called up my intern and I asked her to make me a Photoshopped picture. I sent her a picture of a snowplow, a picture of one of our ducks and a picture of one of the older parades with Belichik and Brady. I was like, “Listen, make me a picture of a duck with a snowplow blasting snow out of the way like it’s the Patriots parade.” She does it, sends it to me and I post it on the page. Then the sales team in here told me that they got so many phone calls from media asking if that picture was real, and most people would call and be like, “Listen, I know this is a Photoshopped image, but I have to ask, do you have snow plows for the ducks?” We were like, “No, of course we don’t, because we typically don’t run in the winter.” I think that’s probably the most recently entertaining thing.

How many ducks does your fleet have, and are you looking to expand?

Right now we’re keeping the 28. We had some older models and we’ve been weeding those out and replacing them with newer models we had custom built for us, and we just finished that up. We’re done for now because they’re expensive.

How many passengers does your fleet typically carry on a busy day during peak season?

Between 4,000-4,500 people. For the whole season, lately, we’ve been doing around 600,000-620,000 a year.

I know you now offer new languages on the tour. Do you plan on including even more languages?

Yeah, it’s an ongoing process. We only run those tours out of the Prudential Center, so we’re trying to gauge the demand for different languages. There’s been really great feedback about that. We feel like we have a lot of international travelers in the city. I worked down in the ticket location for a long time and you come across a lot of people that don’t speak English, or very little, and they’re looking for a tour in another language. To be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of options for people. It’s been great.

If you had to tell someone, what is your “must-follow” social media account?

Our Facebook page. We put a lot of effort into our Facebook page. It also tends to be geared more towards the demographic that we’re looking to get. It’s not necessarily like Twitter in that it’s constant and in a newsy format. We want that general information type page. Facebook is our strongest page by far. We tend to get a lot more hits on Twitter when big things go on, like when we’re doing a parade for the different teams in town. That’s when Twitter starts to fire away.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.