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

A little bird wants you to tweet Starbucks gift cards to your Twitter followers.

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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