With relatively little fanfare, and even less market reverberation than one would expect, Google decided a few weeks back to shut down Wildfire as an independent service. As a reminder, Wildfire was one of several social marketing companies to be acquired in the “We’ve gotta have one of those!” social marketing hysteria of 2012, in this case for $350M by Google.
Here’s the announcement on the Wildfire site:
What’s interesting about the announcement is the plan to integrate Wildfire with the existing adtech optimization platform aimed at corporate B2B clients, the venerable DoubleClick. This decision is entirely consistent with what Gartner, Forrester and other analysts see as the eventual destiny of social monitoring, especially social marketing: integration with a strategic application platform. The Big Question is why? Here are a few thoughts:
Standalone social marketing ROI is soft when compared to Adwords
Let’s face it, Social Marketers have been hyping the impact of social on hard-to-measure marketing activities for years now. There are clearly isolated cases of hard ROI numbers in social marketing, but far fewer than one would believe. When compared to using Google Adwords, a marketer would have to stretch to make the $’s of investment in social seem anywhere near as effective.
Social is an additional channel for digital marketing, not an alternative channel
A marketer running a variety of campaigns will not rely entirely on social, but use social as one of several methods to attract engagement and generate leads. Therefore, a social marketing tool will need to sit alongside, or within other applications anyway.
The pattern of acquire and integrate is well established. Jenny Sussin of Gartner did a great job of cataloging the various Social CRM/Social Marketing acquisitions over the last several years. In general, her thesis (which we support at Buzzient) is that social is an enabling application for many platforms, and a requirement not just to satisfy customer needs, but also a competitive necessity:
This integration of Wildfire also gives rise to several predictions:
Standalone Social Marketing tools will disappear for Enterprise users
The integration of social marketing is already taking place for those companies acquired in 2011/2012: Radian6, Vitrue, BuddyMedia have all been consumed/subsumed by a larger “host” marketing suite. Vendors seeking to “go it alone” will either have to stay in the SMB/SME tier, or will be consolidated in the Enterprise.
AdTech companies will need to acquire social marketing/analytics apps
Many of the AdTech companies have little to no-social marketing functionality. Those vendors who (quite rightly) focused on more traditional click measurement of marketing will need to add social capabilities driven more by social engagement metrics and sentiment. Expect to see an M&A rush by the AdTech platforms to add social capabilities if only as a counter to Google.
So, though Wildfire will no longer be an independent service, the integration of social capabilities into larger marketing suites and AdTech platforms is probably just beginning. As the Wildfire team ride off into the distance, expect to see additional consolidation of social marketing.