Hotwire | Building a social data analytics tool – Listening Post - Hotwire

By Joshua Lachkovic

We are very pleased to announce that our Insights & Analytics tool Listening Post has won an In2 SABRE Award. The tool won in the Insights Product or Service by an Agency category. We wanted to share with you the case study for how we created the tool.

Listening Post

Listening Post is a social data analytics platform created by Hotwire’s R+D lab 33 Digital to meet the evolving demands of clients with social data. The tool uses social network analysis to map networks of influencers, as well as analyse all functionality of Twitter and the social graph. In 2011, we identified the need for a social data insights tool that would monitor influencers and their conversations. In parallel to this, a high-profile media client reflected the same need with a specific aim to sort the signal and noise. With no tool in the marketplace, we decided to create one.

Research and insight

Before committing to investment, we needed to ensure that the tool would find product-market fit. We used our extensive knowledge of social media tools such as the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (previously Radian6), Brandwatch, Sysmosis and Meltwater Buzz, to assess the existing solutions in the marketplace. Paired with our knowledge of social media and big data trends, we were able to identify a gap in the market. From our existing knowledge and early research, we knew that there was a strong and emerging market for tools in this space. Yet there were none that fixed the exact problem that we had identified. That unique problem – to better identify and understand online networks of influence and conversation – was vital to any product we would develop. Aside from direct research, our extensive knowledge of both B2B and B2C client campaigns, combined with the fact we operate in regions all over the world, meant that the product would have to be scalable in every sense. Through research and insight, we recognised clear product demand and potential for profit with Listening Post. The product could help us grow existing accounts; provide an avenue for new business; and allow for greater insights in pitches, which would help increase our win-ratio.


Once internally approved, the strategy was to:
  • Develop a platform that reflected the evolving needs of clients;
  • Keep the product current, allowing for future social media developments to be incorporated.


We created the first alpha version of Listening Post (0.1) internally. At this stage, the tool was little more than a database using PHP to pull trending topics and posts. But it allowed us to provide the first Listening Post service to a client. We responded to feedback from the client and began editing the tool to our needs. Recognising the possibilities of Listening Post and the limitations of our existing capabilities, we hired an external development team to start building the first full version. Listening Post is built upon the Zend Framework, written in PHP using MySQL, on a Nginx server. Through the alpha and beta stages of development, we began to use Listening Post with select clients. This stage was incredibly beneficial to us in developing Listening Post 1.0. Each feature we introduced was chosen based our research. By choosing to develop features specifically based on our own clients’ needs and our own research, we reduced unnecessary costs by building only the features that were necessary. With Listening Post 1.0 complete, we launched it externally and internally at the end of 2012. We continue to develop the tool on an ongoing basis.


To date, we have used Listening Post to analyse over 200 million tweets from 30 million unique Twitter accounts. Listening Post is used to provide insights in all new business pitches across the wider agency, and is used in all social media-led campaigns. A significant portion of agency business used Listening Post in the product’s first financial year. Listening Post has been exceptionally well received internally. Uptake with account teams across practices and countries has been remarkable. Its success has prompted internal stakeholders to sign off additional budget for marketing and new business development. By satisfying the needs and demands of clients in this way, we have met one of the first objective. And by introducing new product features throughout the year, we have met the second. Listening Post has been used by a vast array of clients (currently undisclosed). For many clients, Listening Post played a fundamental part of securing their business, and without the insights provided we would not have won the work. Listening Post is an integral part of all social media campaigns completed across the entire agency, being used in the business development stage and then in social strategy stage. It is then used as a reporting tool on an ongoing basis and provides real time influencer insights and content marketing programme insights.

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