Budweiser Wants You to Buy a Facebook Friend a Real Beer

Anheuser-Busch wants you to buy the next round on Facebook. The company is testing a campaign whereby people can send vouchers for free Bud Lights to people celebrating birthdays or dispatch Budweisers on any occasion it might be appropriate to send an inexpensive beer to an online acquaintance.

The program is currently available in Denver and Chicago. In those cities, recipients will receive coupons that can be redeemed at participating bars or restaurants. Any teenagers who hope this constitutes an opportunity for a free beer will have to set up fake Facebook accounts and then trick bartenders into thinking they’re 21.

This isn’t the first time a popular beverage company has used an online social network to give drinks away. Anyone willing to link their Starbucks and Twitter accounts has been able to send $5 Starbucks gift cards to friends since last fall in a promotion designed to get people accustomed to using Starbucks’s mobile payment app. That’s working out pretty well: The company now processes 15 percent of orders in U.S. stores through the app.

Facebook once saw a wider opportunity in the virtual gifting of physical goods. Remember Facebook Gifts, which allowed people to buy presents for friends? The company’s idea was to take a cut of the sales price while in the process encouraging users to link credit cards to Facebook, facilitating further forms of commerce. At the time, Facebook was getting punished by Wall Street and seeking new ways to make money. Having recovered, the company decided over the summer to shutter the Gifts program in order to focus on a button that lets people buy things directly from Facebook ads.

Facebook worked with Anheuser-Busch on its new promotion. The enabling system is powered by Gratafy, an online gifting service that has relationships with bars and restaurants in Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. The brewer is planning a nationwide roll-out next year, but it’s a good guess that light beer enthusiasts in those cities are next in line.

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