Starbucks has launched a program that lets Twitter users send gift cards to friends through Twitter. First 100,000 users get free coffee for themselves.

starbucks coffee Help Twitter friends get their caffeine fix with Starbucks Tweet a Coffee

Social networking is not just for exchanging updates online. Businesses have launched their own brand campaigns and have partnered with social networks to run special offers. These can include discounts and freebies, and now users can also send goods through the network. With Starbucks’ latest Tweet-a-Coffee offer, users get to be generous with their Twitter friends.

The premise is simple: users connect their Twitter accounts with Starbucks, link their credit card details with the account, and then tweet “@tweetacoffee [friend's Twitter username]“.

The recipient will then get a $5 Starbucks e-gift card, which can be used toward the purchase of coffee or any item from starbucks. To promote the service, the first 100,000 users who send a gift card using their linked Visa credit cards will also receive a $5 e-gift certificate for their own use.

Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman says the two companies complement each other, particularly in how social networking can serve as a bridge between online and offline worlds. Brotman says Starbucks’ ideal scenario involves friends having chance encounters in real life, and then exchanging gifts and items through virtual means.

The coffee company has about 35 million followers on Twitter, and previously launched a similar program through Facebook. Apart from its Twitter and Facebook campaigns, however, Starbucks has also run other mobile-oriented campaigns, which include video-over-SMS and MMS, as well as alternate reality applications.

Of course, it will depend on one’s coffee drinking habits and preferences as to how far five bucks will go. But the program goes beyond coffee and gift-giving, as it demonstrates the potential of Twitter not just as a social network, but also as a platform for e-commerce. Starbucks’ Brotman has high hopes for the platform, as the company views its latest program as a “first step toward many things … that are commerce related.” He says that Twitter “feels more conversational” compared to traditional e-commerce, and therefore offers a “more authentic” e-commerce experience than the usual service, which just entails buying items for oneself.

Source: @starbucks, Fast Company