Google Acquires Online Social Media Management Start-Up Wildfire

Google Inc announced on Tuesday it acquired marketing start-up Wildfire to help the world’s largest Internet search company expand further into social media.

Google has bought online marketing service Wildfire for $250m (£159m) in a bid to expand its lucrative advertising business. Photo: Caccamo/Flickr

Google has acquired social media management platform Wildfire Interactive for about $250 million, to a person familiar with the deal told Reuters.

Wildfire, the US-based website, helps companies manage social media accounts on a range of services including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as online marketing campaigns, from a single website.

The company founded by Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard in 2008 already has about 400 employees and powers social media marketing for more then 16,000 businesses, including 30 of the top 50 global brands.

Jason Miller, Google’s product management director, wrote about the acquisition today in a blog post: “The ultimate goal is better and fresher content, and more meaningful interactions. People today can make their voices heard in ways that were previously impossible, and Wildfire helps businesses uphold their end of the conversation.”

He said: “With Wildfire, we’re looking forward to creating new opportunities for our clients to engage with people across all social services. We believe that better content and more seamless solutions will help unlock the full potential of the web for people and businesses.”

The deal is the latest one in a string of social media acquisitions by Internet and enterprise software companies. For instance, Salesforce.com Inc bought Buddy Media in June for almost $700 million, and Oracle Corp has acquired several social media businesses this year, including Involver, Vitrue and Collective Intellect.

Google bought social media start-up Meebo for about $100 million in June.

Wildfire co-founders Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard made a simultaneous announcement in a blog post on their website: “We believe that over time the combination of Wildfire and Google can lead to a better platform for managing all digital media marketing.”

“For now, we remain focused on helping brands run and measure their social engagement and ad campaigns across the entire web and across all social services — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more — and to deliver rich and satisfying experiences for their consumers. To this end, Wildfire will operate as usual, and there will be no changes to our service and support for our customers,” they said.

Wildfire should fit well within Google because the company specializes in technology that helps advertisers reach consumers online. It is known that Google plans to slot Wildfire into a group of online ad services offered through its DoubleClick business.

“There’s still a lot of opportunity for advertisers to get their message out on social media,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie. “As more and more social sites are being used, such as Pinterest, it gets more and more complicated for companies and brands to manage.”

It was long rumored that Facebook was interested in buying Wildfire. Now Google and Facebook are now direct competitors on two fronts, according to Business Insider.

First, Wildfire allows Google to cream off marketing dollars in “social media management” fees, which are spent pursuant to larger budgets end up on Facebook. Now Google gets to ride a little on Facebook’s success.

What is more, Facebook’s FBX ad exchange works a lot like Google’s AdSense, allowing advertisers and publishers to buy and serve ads against cookie-based data on third-party web sites.

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