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[UPDATE 11 July, 2010. Thanks to Daniel Hoffmann, who correctly pointed out this article’s characterization of @earlybird as an upcoming ‘group-buy’ service, was not strictly true insofar as there is no public indication that ‘minimum number of purchases’ will be needed to activate @earlybird deals, nor that it will offer active pricing (more people who buy, the cheaper the product), key defining characteristics of group buy sites such as Groupon.  In this sense, @earlybird, is better characterized as a ‘social shopping deal feed’…  Thanks Daniel.

Just as social commerce group-buy site BuyWithMe gets a further $16m funding (following in the footsteps of Groupon with its $135 million funding-round, and LivingSocial with $49 million), so Twitter has thrown its hat into the social shopping flash sale arena, with its own take on the deal-a-day Woot phenomenon – offering a deal feed of special time-bound deals to followers of @earlybird.

It’s a logical move, given the success of group deal sites, the recent purchase of Woot for $110m by Amazon, and the experience of Dell with its @DellOutlet deal feed on Twitter netting $6.5m on special offers.  It’ll be a great way for Twitter to monetize its’ users (Twitter will charge for space on the @earlybird deal feed) and for advertisers using the new promoted tweets feature – an accompanying @earlybird deal could boost functionality. See here for Twitter’s @earlybird FAQ, commentary from new media thought leader Brian Solis, from Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb, and UK broadsheet The Guardian.

It’s not clear how Twitter will manage the @earlybird deal feed for people interested in particular categories, brands etc – but if Twitter is throwing muscle behind deal feeds, it raises the interesting opportunity for a Twitter-based site/app that aggregates, curates and filters deals.  Time also think about the inevitable ‘FaceDeals’ and ‘TubeDeals’ that will follow.

And for brands that regularly sample, why not jump on the trend, and offer “Sweets” – Sampling via Tweets – to your followers?