August 2, 2012 Cam Levack
Google has just entered the social marketing fray with the acquisition of Wildfire Interactive, a company focused on helping brands market themselves on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. For a reported cost of $250 million, Google now has a foothold in social advertising. Google buys Wildfire, but has it done the right thing?
The move will enable the search engine giant to provide advanced software and services to brands looking to run contests, sweepstakes, branded games and more on Google+, its own social marketing entity. Google+ is a competitor of Facebook. Ironic? Well, consider that Wildfire will continue to operate as a marketing tool for companies on competing platforms such as Facebook, “putting the giant search engine in a curious position where it earns money on the success of its rivals”.
In effect, Google will benefit if Facebook and Twitter rise in popularity – and provide a hedge if Google+ gets negative growth.
The move is another in the increasing tendency for large online companies to gain a social presence. Google had already bid on buying Buddy Media but lost the deal to Salesforce. Oracle, the world’s largest maker of database software, recently purchased social marketing leaders Vitrue and Involver. ThisMoment, a popular online marketing platform, may be up for grabs as well.
Just four years ago, Wildfire co-founders Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard developed the first Wildfire technology as owners of a New Zealand-based adventure travel agency. They wanted to give a free trip to fans, but learned that running a promotion on Facebook would require them to create an app. Their weeklong side project turned into Promotion Builder, Wildfire’s first product.
Today, Wildfire powers social media marketing for more than 16,000 businesses, including 30 of the top 50 global brands. They have 400 employees. Wildfire offers a complete “social marketing suite” and has a software program that integrates directly with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Wildfire will help handle Pages and other properties brands control, to complement Google’s DoubleClick AdX/Admeld paid marketing service for buying ads on search and other websites. The acquisition shows that Google understands that ads can’t do it all. More and more brand spending goes towards managing their presences on social networks, and now it will get a slice of that pie as well.
Most of all, the deal demonstrates a growing issue between Google and Facebook as their business models increasing overlap. Will they cooperate, or wage war? As Forrester analyst Zachary Reiss-Davis explains, “Google wants to be the leader in every single type of digital advertising. Right now, they can’t offer social marketing, so they’re building out that part of their portfolio.”
Reiss-Davis is hopeful of peace. “The two companies are going to have to start collaborating more,” he said. “It’s in both of their interests.”
Cam Levak, Raven5 Ltd, Toronto, August 2012