Twitter's new Starbucks e-gifts let you send treats by tweet

Twitter is veering into Facebook territory with a new Starbucks partnership that lets you tweet your followers $5 gift cards—just enough to cover the cost of a pumpkin spice latte.

The “Tweet a coffee” promotion requires you to link your Starbucks and Twitter accounts—or sign up for both, then connect them—then send a tweet that says, “@tweetacoffee to @[yourfriendhere].” That trigger sends a $5 e-gift card to your friend, which they can use by printing out the gift card, loading it in the Starbucks app, or just showing the e-mail to a barista.

Starbucks is no stranger to social media promotions. The company launched a Facebook app in 2010 before rolling out an e-gift program on the network a year later. Gift cards are big business for the coffee company, and the Twitter promotion is timed perfectly for the annual pumpkin spice craze.

The promotion is a test of Twitter’s public nature—gifts are typically a private affair, but you’re not direct-messaging these gift cards. Starbucks is a powerful partner to have for a beta launch, and the two companies are sweetening the deal with an incentive: The first 100,000 customers who tweet gift cards using Visas will get a $5 card in return through Nov. 6.

“Shared experiences, such as a television show, a sporting event, or someone sharing a gift, are at the heart of the Twitter experience,” Twitter’s vice president of brand strategy Joel Lunenfeld said in a statement.

That last part, gift-giving, hasn’t been included in the list of shared Twitter experiences until now. Twitter experimented with letting users make purchases using hashtags in a test with American Express earlier this year, but it’s unclear how successful that effort was. The company is clearly exploring all revenue-generating possibilities in the weeks leading up to its IPO.

Facebook Gifts have been sort of successful—at least if you're talking gift cards. Physical gifts weren’t that popular, so the network got rid of them in August. But Facebook’s gift program makes sense: The network knows when your friends have major milestones, like birthdays or job changes, and prompts you to send them gift cards to celebrate. Twitter gifts don’t seem as natural a fit, but those pumpkin spice lattes are a powerful motivator.

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