Google has just bought social marketing software developer Wildfire, which lets brands serve marketing and ad campaigns on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. Wildfire has grown to 400 employees over the last four years and now serves 16,000 customers. [Update: We’ve now learned from a Wildfire investor that the company sold to Google for $350 million, higher than the $250 million price we and others previously reported.]
The acquisition will allow Google to provide advanced software and services to brands who want to run contests, sweepstakes, branded games and more on Google+. Wildfire will still operate as a marketing tool for brands on Google’s competing platforms, including Facebook, putting the search giant in a curious position where it earns money on the success of its rivals.
Now it’s successfully bought one of Facebook’s biggest marketing partners. [Update: Dave McClure of 500 Start ups, an early Wildfire investor, this morning commented here that the $250 million price tag we reported was “substantially lower than actual”. Now we’ve learned that another investor has said Google bought Wildfire for $350 million — nearly a 25X multiple on the $14.1 million it had raised through its Series B.]
But Google hasn’t directly entered the social ad space yet. Wildfire only offers ad buying through a partnership with start up Adaptly. [Update: That’s why I’ve just published “Wildfire Only Sells Ads Through Its Partner Adaptly, So Will Google Buy Them Too?“]
Wildfire claims there will be no disruption or immediate changes to the service it offers, which includes ad buying (via Adaptly), feed publishing, Page management, social app and contest development, analytics, social monitoring:
“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.
That puts Google in an odd spot, where it will benefit if social networks such as Facebook and Twitter rise in popularity amongst brands. This hedges it against failure of Google+ as play to gain ad-targetable social data, but could heat up the on-going API battles between the top social platforms.
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