Living Social, Bouyed by Facebook Redesign, Buys Beverage Site

Living Social, a brand that’s become achingly familiar to Facebook users in recent weeks following that site’s controversial redesign, is capitalizing on its sudden popularity by scooping up another social networking tool, Buy Your Friend a Drink.

Living Social allows members of social networking sites to make and share lists of their favorite (or least favorite) things, from movies to books to sports teams to breakfast cereals. Popular creations include “5 Films that I Never Tire of Watching” and “My 5 Most Hated Sports Teams,” lists that are now featured prominently on Facebook’s restructured news feed.

BuyYourFriendaDrink.com allows users to send gift certificates for drinks –redeemable in bars all across the U.S. — to friends either by e-mail or regular mail.

Both sites work with marketers by storing the preferences of users and offering them relevant discounts or buying opportunities. Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO and Co-founder of Living Social, said that Buy Your Friend a Drink, which is based in New York, was an obvious fit for his fast growing company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“One of the topic areas we’ve covered and built up a lot of traction in is beer, wines and spirits,” he said. “We have a lot of people that tell us their favorite beers or wines and then write reviews of them. What Buy Your Friend a Drink has been able to do is establish a relationship with some of these brands. Plus they are already on the point of sale system for a good number of bars.”

Being on the point-of-sale system for bars means that gift certificates or coupons from Buy Your Friend a Drink are instantly redeemable at participating establishments, giving Living Social the opportunity to offer its customers actual product. O’Shaughnessy said this would greatly expand the kinds of marketing campaigns Living Social could offer its corporate clients.

“With us, you catalog your interests, and when things or events come around that interest you, we serve them up,” he said.

Washington, D.C.-based Living Social was founded in the summer of 2007 and grew steadily until Facebook introduced its latest redesign last month, bringing certain kinds of user activity — particularly quizzes and “sharing” applications like Living Social — to the forefront. Since then, Living Social has seen a massive spike in traffic and membership.

The site went from just about 350,00 unique visitors in February to 800,000 in March, according to Compete.com. More telling is that its core application, launched less than a month ago, already claims more than 20 million members, O’Shaughnessy said. The tool is also available on MySpace and the iPhone.

While many Facebook users have complained about the redesign, saying it cluttered the site with too much useless information and made it more difficult to find more important features, O’Shaugnessy is not one of them.

“I don’t think Facebook had us in mind with the redesign, but they wanted the site to be much more about sharing things with friends, and that is at the very core of what we’ve been doing,” he said. “It’s been really great for us.”

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