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Oracle acquisition gets Larry more Involver(ed) with Facebook

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Oracle is about to gain millions of fans – by buying software that powers Facebook fan pages. On Tuesday the database giant announced it would acquire Involver, a social-media software company, for an undisclosed sum.

Involver offers a suite of tools that allow companies to develop marketing campaigns enriched social experiences across Facebook and other social sites.

Its core technology is Social Markup Language (SML), a server-side templating language that allows developers to build complex UIs for social networks without writing a lot of custom code. If that's too complicated for them, there's a Visual SML tool that lets them do it with drag-and-drop ease.

Oracle says that Involver's tools make it possible to build Facebook fan pages "in minutes", and that the suite already powers more than a million fan pages.

Another tool aggregates conversations from multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts into a single dashboard, making it easier for campaign managers to respond to what's being said about their brands on social networks.

Involver's current customers include a cross-section of ad agencies, media companies, and consumer brands such as Best Buy, MTV Networks, Razorfish, and USA Today.

The merger is still underway, but is expected to close by September. This latest purchase isn't Oracle's first foray into social media, however. In May it acquired Vitrue, a social marketer, followed in June by Collective Intent, a social media–monitoring company.

Along with Involver, Oracle plans to integrate these companies into a unified Oracle Social Platform for sales, marketing, and customer service via social networks.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's own track record with Facebook and other social networking sites has been somewhat spotty.

At AllThingsD's D10 conference in May, Ellison told the crowd, "For about three months, I was kind of obsessed with Facebook. I was on there all the time." Three months were apparently long enough.

In June, he signed up for a Twitter account, which he promptly used to promote an Oracle product announcement. Despite gaining 28,000 followers, the account has remained silent ever since.

"I try to use these social networks and I try to use all of these technologies just so I'm aware of what's going on," Ellison said at D10. "When you use these things, you get a certain degree of insight of what is possible today that wasn't possible before a Facebook."

What he took away from his research, it seems, was that while social networks weren't really his cup of tea, they do make it possible to market products and services like never before – and Larry was never one to turn down a dollar. ®

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