Coffee fanatics now have a new way to share their obsession, courtesy of Starbucks’ “Tweet-A-Coffee,” Launched on October 28, the program allows U.S. users to sync their Starbucks and Twitter accounts and send a $5 digital gift by tweeting @tweetacoffee to the handle of the intended recipient. Recipients are then directed to the eGift that they may then redeem at participating stores by showing it directly on their mobile device.

Twitter will undoubtedly take notice of the strategy as it looks for new sources of revenue and innovative ways to utilize the platform. Something investors will embrace following the company’s already strong performance since their initial public offering on November 7.

The move follows a growing trend by Starbucks and other retailers to make it easier to send digital gift cards — a function that was already available through email, mobile apps and Facebook. The concept of directly tweeting a gift card is revolutionary, and we expect the trend to only grow among retailers.

Tweet-a-Coffee’s genius as a marketing tool

Starbucks is not only pioneering a new way for customers to send gifts of their products, they are marketing in the cleverest way possible. By encouraging their loyal fans to spread their passion for Starbucks in such an innovative way, they are exponentially growing the influence of their key stakeholders and most powerful influencers.

Starbucks is pioneering digital marketing and other eCommerce brands should take note. Any brand would benefit from innovating ways for their loyal fan base to easily share their enthusiasm for products and services.

The branding of the campaign is also thought-provoking. “@tweetacoffee” in and of itself is an interesting choice. Why not @tweetstarbucks? (We checked. It’s available.) Perhaps it is a missed opportunity by Starbucks to name the campaign using its brand, or maybe it is a genius attempt to capitalize on owning the product itself as tweeting gifts becomes a growing trend. Will we see other brands follow the same model with @tweetanicecream? (Take note Cold Stone Creamery!) Only time will tell how best practices will emerge as brands continue to innovate in the digital gift card market.

Some campaign shortfalls

Starbucks offered the first 100,000 customers that used Tweet-a-Gift using a Visa gift card from the start of the campaign (through November 6), a complimentary $5 eGift for themselves. Despite that offer, @tweetacoffee only has 14,952 followers — a relatively insignificant participation given that the main Starbucks Twitter account has 5.2 million at the time of this article. We would expect a larger response after two weeks out from such a largely recognized brand.

Both Visa and Starbucks promoted the campaign with tweets. However, there seem to be some glitches, with customers claiming that either they or their intended recipients did not receive the gift. Additionally, Starbucks learned the pitfalls of offering only a specific segment an offer on such an open, global platform. Canadian Starbucks fans were aware of the campaign, but not happy that they were unable to participate. Many claimed that the caveat of U.S.-only participation was not clear in the rollout.


Additionally, we found their messaging to be slightly confusing. The instructions for using Tweet-A-Coffee require the following format in order to work: “@tweetacoffee to @(recipients Twitter handle).” However, when visiting the main Tweet-A-Coffee website, we notice a banner that says: “Gift Starbucks using Twitter #amazing.” This is slightly confusing and we would suggest any new digital campaign be as seamless and simple to use as possible for users.

Implications for other eCommerce brands

Another issue that must be addressed for Twitter eGifting is the idea that it requires a high-level of input from users. This level of gift card and Twitter integration made sense for Starbucks. Their customers are loyal and use My Starbucks Rewards accounts, which are required to participate in Tweet-a-Coffee.

For other brands, a small denomination for eGifts may not be as feasible or desireable. Perhaps in the future we will see a custom hashtag utilized in combination with @tweetacoffee to allow users to purchase higher dollar amounts.


We applaud Starbucks for once again being a leader in marketing innovations. The company understands their users and knows how to mobilize them. Starbucks has discovered a way to literally turn their Twitter followers into active consumers and turn tweets into trackable sales. We look forward to seeing the Twitter eGift trend take off as a tool for other companies.