Paul Mabray is among the leading experts at applying targeted analytics in the wine industry. He co-founded VinTank and is now CEO of the platform that's a combination social media monitoring, social media management and social CRM platform for the wine industry. According to Mabray, the software has analyzed over a billion conversations and processes over 2.5 million per day.

[caption id="attachment_2935" align="alignright" width="150"]Paul Mabray Paul Mabray[/caption]

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s recent book Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy featured VinTank, detailing how the company has built a database of of more than 19.5 million people who have revealed their wine tastes on social media.

The system builds profiles for wine enthusiasts — for instance those who have spent more than $100 on a bottle of wine — rather than every person who has bought a low-end supermarket variety. This profile, in turn, aggregates geo-data and photos uploaded from Napa wineries visited; wine club memberships; and other available information to assign each person a score. This data was initially used for analyst reports but VinTank pivoted in 2011 to become a marketing service.

Since then, VinTank has turned its attention to building a “geofence” around every major wine region in California that alerts wineries when an upmarket prospect is driving, staying or dining in the vicinity so that wineries can send personalized outreach to the prospect.

In2: VinTank started out as an analyst firm for the wine industry and you were an early adopter in using social media to track consumer preferences. Why did you evolve from that to SAAS platform?

Paul Mabray:  The goal was always to help wineries connect to customers. But with the analyst model, every client wanted me in the room and that’s not scalable. That was the motivation to go into software and we bought a SAAS company, but initially felt like social media was so far ahead of the wine industry. So we kept funding them to innovate but kept them in ‘the back room’ until I felt we were ready as a company to pivot.

In2: Tell me more about the geo-fence.

PM: We started with a geo-fence around every winery in Napa. So if you post on Twitter that you’re having the most amazing anniversary at a winery, [the winery] can see that and bring you, for example, a cheese plate. They can also check to see who’s nearby and would be a prospect and invite them to the winery for a tasting. We now have a geo-fence around every major wine region in California, so the fence can range from 25 miles to 3 miles depending on the size of the wine region. We also do pop-up geo-fences when there’s a wine tasting event.

In2: What are the privacy considerations?

PM: We only use information that is available on open networks — mostly Instagram, Twitter and, to some extent, Facebook. But in 22 months, we’ve had zero customer complaints. In fact, for our wineries about 10% of their tasting room traffic comes from geo-fencing.

In2: How do you recommend clients respond to negative social media posts? Many brands seem to be training customers not to use social media for issues resolution. 

PM: In wine, there’s a lot less negativity than restaurants and hotels. It’s more about customer enhancement than about issues resolution. Most of the negative posts you get are from someone who is drunk, but wanted to stay at a winery longer.

In2: Do you plan expand beyond wineries?

PM: We have three or four hotels testing the software now and more than 30% of the restaurants in Napa. We are using wine as the crossover. Instead of just having a dashboard, we’re spoon-feeding information to our clients — if a person does X, you should do Y. We’re launching with a few other hotels in the next few weeks and I fully expect we’ll have 100% of the restaurants in Napa by the end of the year.