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Google acquires Kiwi-led social start-up Wildfire

Google has acquired marketing start-up Wildfire to help the world's largest internet search company expand further into social media.

Google paid about $US250 million for the business, according to a person familiar with the deal. The source is not authorised to speak publicly about the transaction and requested anonymity.

Victoria Ransom, co-founder of Wildfire, now part of Google.
Victoria Ransom, co-founder of Wildfire, now part of Google. 

Wildfire provides software for brands and agencies to launch and manage social campaigns, create brand pages, monitor and message consumers and track how they're being perceived on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other social networks. Wildfire's clients include Sony, Amazon.com, Pepsi and Air New Zealand.

It was founded in 2008 by New Zealander Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard who she met while at the Harvard Business School. The Silicon Valley company has about 400 employees and powers social media marketing for more then 16,000 businesses, including 30 of the top 50 global brands.

It was partly funded by Facebook, according to Mashable.

The deal is the latest in a string of social media acquisitions by internet and enterprise software companies.

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Salesforce.com snapped up Buddy Media in June for almost $US700 million, and Oracle has acquired several social media businesses this year, including Involver, Vitrue and Collective Intellect.

Google bought social media start-up Meebo for about $US100 million in June.

It has made several attempts at shaking Facebook's social network dominance including the launch of Google+ which now claims 250 million users, compared with Facebook's 900 million. The challenge for Google is to capture advertising revenue from the social networks.

"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 [campaigns]."

Wildfire business should fit well within Google because the company specialises in technology that helps advertisers reach consumers online, the analyst added.

Ransom won the New Zealand Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2011, when she said one of the greatest compliments for her company was the fact Facebook used Wildfire to manage its own consumer marketing.

Google plans to slot Wildfire into a group of online ad services offered through its DoubleClick business.

In a strange twist, the acquisition will see Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's sister Arielle, who lists her occupation as junior product manager at Wildfire, now work for Google.

Reuters

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