[caption id="attachment_1452" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Will Meebo boost Google Plus engagement?"] [/caption] Google plans on purchasing Meebo, a vendor of social-networking tools for consumers and advertisers, with an eye toward strengthening its Google Plus social network as a viable alternative to Facebook. “We are happy to announce that Meebo has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Google,” read a note on Meebo’s official blog. “Together with Google, we’re super jazzed to roll up our sleeves and get cracking on even bigger and better ways to help users and website owners alike.” Sources told AllThingsD that Google’s price for Meebo would top $100 million. While that’s a pretty good haul for any seven-year-old company whose original product was browser-based instant messaging software, it pales in comparison to what Oracle and Salesforce have recently paid for social-marketing startups for a cloud bent. Google offered a bit more detail about its plans for the acquisition. “We are always looking for better ways to help users share content and connect with others across the Web, just as they do in real life,” read the company’s statement. “With the Meebo team’s expertise in social publisher tools, we believe they will be a great fit with the Google Plus team.” Meebo’s core product is the Meebo Bar, which runs along the bottom of commercial Websites and allows a publisher to surface messages, promotions, and news; it includes integration with Facebook and Twitter. Web-surfers can use Meebo to create streams of personalized content, organized by topic. Meebo’s utility to advertisers, publishers and regular users obviously made it an attractive target to Google, which is seeking ways to build engagement with its Google Plus platform. Although Google claims that Google Plus has some 170 million users, it routinely refuses to share information about how often they visit and what they do with the network. But according to a widely disseminated report from research firm comScore, users spent an average of 3.3 minutes on Google Plus in January 2012.        Social Boost? Whether Meebo’s assets can boost Google Plus engagement is a big question mark. On a broader level, though, the acquisition is clearly part of a larger trend in which large IT vendors snatch up a startup for its social-marketing abilities. On June 4, Salesforce announced that it would acquire Buddy Media for approximately $689 million in cash and stock; Buddy Media’s platform allows companies to create and manage customized content on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. In May, Oracle entered into an agreement to acquire Vitrue, described as a “cloud-based social marketing and engagement platform.” Terms of the Oracle deal went undisclosed, although reports suggested that the final sale price was around $300 million. Obviously, these companies feel that social marketing can play a vital role in their cloud-software strategies. But whether these big payouts will result in an equally large payoff remains to be seen.   Image: Meebo