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Today’s post is by Terry Whalen, Managing Director at Sum Digital, a San Francisco digital marketing agency. Terry has managed millions in PPC spend for consumer and B2B advertisers since 2006.

In June 2012 Google announced the acquisition of Wildfire Interactive, Inc., which helps advertisers with social media marketing. (Some folks refer to Wildfire as WildfireApp, which is consistent with their current web address.) In the last couple of months, many AdWords users have seen AdWords dashboards links encouraging them to sign up with Wildfire.

wildfire prompt google

We’ve started to investigate what Wildfire brings to the table, and we wanted to share what we’ve learned so far.

Tidbits about Wildfire

wildfire googleAccording to Wildfire, its advertiser customers see a 50% reduction in time and costs of running effective social media marketing campaigns. Impressively, Wildfire also says that its offering is used by 30 of the top 50 global brands. The company seems to have around 400 employees or so, with offices around the world. And, when I called the 800 number for sales help, I got a quick response from someone who was very helpful in walking me through Wildfire’s platform and services. Yay! The offering works with Facebook (duh!), Twitter, Google Plus (of course), YouTube (check), LinkedIn (cool), and Pinterest.

The platform components include ‘Pages’ and ‘Promotions,’ which allow users to create custom content for their brand. The ‘Ads’ component enables automated ad testing based on uploaded content, and takes into account audience segments and channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). The ‘Messages’ component allows advertisers to manage “an expansive network” from a single dashboard, and to reduce or eliminate “fragmented communication.”

Users can schedule message/content deployment to multiple properties, delivering “personalized communication at scale.” There are user permissions, workflow features, and filters and flagging to enhance and control audience communication. There are also ‘Analytics’ and ‘Monitoring’ components to the offering.

Targeting Medium- to Large-Sized Businesses

Wildfire started out as more of a low-cost self-service platform, but now it seems to be more of a full-service offering, with subscription plans that start at an average of $3,000 to $4,000 per month. The only part of their offering that a user can touch and feel without paying for a subscription plan is the ‘promotions’ component. Without a subscription plan (which includes services), you’ll see a lot of this:

wildfire no access

No Analytics or Monitoring, no Pages or Messages parts of the platform. Unless I’m missing something, this means that unless my advertiser client needs to create some sort of a new (Facebook) promotion – like a contest – I’m probably not going to be using Wildfire. If more of the platform were available as self-service, it’d be much more interesting to me.

Where Will Wildfire Go?

I suppose Google bought Wildfire as an additional foothold into social media marketing, and specifically as a way to benefit from Facebook’s rise as an important advertising channel. It makes sense that Google is promoting Wildfire to its hundreds of thousands AdWords advertisers. But I suspect the uptake has been very, very slow.

Many folks who log into AdWords accounts appreciate the power and control of a great self-service platform; they might really appreciate that for social media. But when they find out that most of the Wildfire platform is not available as a low-cost self-service tool, they may slink away like I have done – at least in the short term. I would not be surprised if Wildfire gets back to its roots by offering more functionality via a self-service pricing plan, or for free. If Google can just get users to use the platform, they’ll eventually benefit.

terry whalen cpc search– Terry Whalen is Managing Director at Sum Digital, a San Francisco digital marketing agency. Terry has managed millions in PPC spend for consumer and B2B advertisers since 2006.