Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), owner of the world’s largest Internet search engine, is acquiring Wildfire Interactive Inc., a startup that helps companies market their wares via social media.

Google will pay about $250 million plus performance incentives for Redwood City, California-based Wildfire, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the price wasn’t publicly disclosed. Rob Shilkin, a spokesman for Google, declined to comment.

Wildfire helps businesses such as Cirque du Soleil and Spotify manage social media efforts across the Internet.

It’s an important area for Google as people spend more time on social networks such as Facebook and as advertisers follow them. Google’s social network, Google Plus, hasn’t had the traction that Facebook Inc. enjoys. Wildfire will let Google play a role whether the ad campaign is on Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere.

Wildfire’s co-founders and other staff will join Google.

Companies such as Inc. have been buying startups that specialize in social-media marketing, seeking to capture a bigger slice of advertising budgets devoted to reaching consumers who interact over the Web. Google has stepped up its efforts in social with Google+, a service it started last year that competes directly with Facebook Inc., owner of the biggest social network.

“It’s a platform for brands to manage their pages, apps, tweets, videos, sponsorships, ads, promotions and more, all in one place,” Mountain View, California-based Google said in a blog posting today about Wildfire. “The ultimate goal is better and fresher content, and more meaningful interactions.”

Wildfire’s Services

Wildfire, with investors such as Summit Partners and fbFund — whose capital comes from Founders Fund and Accel Partners — has customers such as PepsiCo Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. Wildfire’s services can help clients boost interest on Facebook and other social sites, including Twitter Inc. and Google+.

“Over time the combination of Wildfire and Google can lead to a better platform for managing all digital media marketing,” the company said on its website. “Wildfire will operate as usual, and there will be no changes to our service and support for our customers.”

Salesforce said on June 4 that it would pay $745 million for Buddy Media Inc., which helps companies create social-media campaigns.

Earlier this month, Oracle Corp., the world’s largest maker of database software, said it is buying Involver Inc., the third acquisition in two months aimed at helping customers use social-media tools.

Google shares rose less than 1 percent to $632.97 at the close in New York. The stock has declined 2 percent this year.

The price of Google’s Wildfire acquisition was reported earlier by Advertising Age.

(The AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report.)