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Oracle Buys Involver to Expand in Social-Media Tools

Oracle Buys Involver to Expand in Social-Media Tools
The Oracle Corp. campus stands in Redwood City, California. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Oracle Corp., the world’s largest maker of database software, is buying Involver Inc., the third acquisition in two months aimed at helping customers use social-media tools to market wares and run their businesses.

Closely held Involver makes software tools that let companies interact with customers on Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc.’s social-networking services. Its products also let marketers create Facebook pages to represent their brands.

Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison is using dealmaking to step up rivalry with Microsoft Corp. and Inc. in the market for social-media management tools, which may more than double to $970 million in 2016 from $389 million this year, according to Forrester Research Inc.

“Everything’s becoming more integrated overall, whether it’s customer-relationship management, advertising or analytics,” said Kimberly Maul, an analyst at market researcher EMarketer Inc. “Brands want to be able to do all of that together.”

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Shares of Oracle were little changed, slipping less than 1 percent to $29.05 at the close in New York. The stock is up 13 percent this year.

More Collaboration

The rise of social media ads, such as sponsored stories on Facebook and promoted tweets on Twitter, means workers who create websites, write ad copy and manage customer relationships need to collaborate more, Maul said.

That’s spurring acquisitions by Oracle and Salesforce, which sell a range of sales, marketing and customer-service software. Oracle said in May that it is buying Vitrue Inc., which helps companies run marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. It announced plans the following month to buy Collective Intellect Inc., which analyzes user data culled from websites.

Customers of Involver include Best Buy Co., Toys “R” Us Inc. and Viacom Inc.’s MTV Networks, according to Involver’s website.

Salesforce said on June 4 that it would pay $689 million for Buddy Media Inc., which helps companies create social-media campaigns. Weeks later, Microsoft agreed to pay $1.2 billion for Yammer Inc., a maker of software that lets employees collaborate in the workplace.

Marketing Automation

The kind of software Involver, Buddy Media and other social-marketing companies make is especially attractive to startups that want to invest more in acquiring customers online than hiring lots of sales staff, said Rick Sherlund, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc. in New York.

“A lot of young companies need to invest maybe more in marketing automation than they do in sales-force automation,” he said. “This is a new wave of marketing and it’s becoming a very strategic area.”

Deals by Oracle and Salesforce may put more pressure on SAP AG, the largest maker of business applications, to acquire companies in the social-marketing area.

“I’m sure they’ll engage,” said Sherlund, who has “buy” ratings on Oracle and SAP. “They’ll need to be active here as well.” Jive Software Inc., which went public in December, could be a possible acquisition target, he said.

So could closely held Wildfire Interactive Inc. and Hearsay Social Inc., which makes dashboards for monitoring workers’ activities on Facebook, Twitter and other sites, said EMarketer’s Maul.

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