On Tuesday, Google announced that it has purchased four year-old viral marketing firm Wildfire, makers of a platform that helps brand champions manage their marketing efforts across various social sites and media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. These include Web pages, apps, tweets, videos, sponsorships, ads and promotions.
While terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, The Wall Street Journal reported the price was in the neighborhood of $250 million.
In the announcement on Google's Official Blog, Product Management Director Jason Miller said his company, with the Wildfire acquisition, is expecting to create new opportunities for clients to "engage with people across all social services."
Miller said Wildfire fits into the Google environment, which already has services to manage and measure social media marketing -- and is the largest seller of online ads. He pointed to Google Analytics as a leading method for businesses to measure marketing contributions from social sites, the DoubleClick ad platform, and the Google+ social networking site, where brands use third-party tools to manage their pages.
Wildfire has nearly 400 employees and about 16,000 customers, including Amazon, Target and Sony.
The sale of the Redwood City, Calif.-based Wildfire was not unexpected, given that two of its leading competitors, Vitrue and Buddy Media, were also scooped up recently by large technology companies.
Oracle bought Vitrue earlier this year for about $300 million, and in July bought social marketer Involver. Salesforce .com bought Buddy Media for about $700 million in June. Google had actually bid on Buddy Media, but lost out.
'Operate as Usual'
In the social media ad space, which is expected to reach more than $8 billion this year, Facebook is the biggest player. With the Wildfire acquisition, however, Google now will be in a better position to facilitate Facebook ads and coordinate them for businesses with other ad buys. It will also allow Google to offer services and tools for brands that want to run extensive campaigns on Google+, such as contests, sweepstakes, and branded games.
For the moment, Wildfire said in a posting on its corporate blog, the company will "operate as usual, and there will be no changes to our service and support for our customers."
The company began in 2008, when co-founders Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard developed the first Wildfire technology to promote a free trip to fans of the New Zealand-based adventure travel company they owned. In order to run the promotion on Facebook, they discovered, they would need to create an application.
The product, Promotion Builder, grew like, well, wildfire, and in early 2012, the Wildfire company became what it described on its Web site as the "first social media marketing company to have a software platform that integrates directly with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn."