It's the importance of voter interaction, in 140 characters.
After two debates in the Republican primary, voters are beginning to see the importance of head-to-head matchups in deciding who to support. We've found one simple stat that can actually help predict the post-debate polls: the increase in Twitter followers for each candidate.
This goes beyond social media "mentions" and "discussion" and "sentiment" scores — metrics that can be important but are often the echo chamber of people who already support a candidate.
Here's our live tracking for the 10 candidates on the main stage Wednesday. It will update in real time during the two-hour debate. Use this as a way to predict who actually "won" the most new followers — and who will likely rise in the next polls. Refresh this page during the debate to see the chart show the latest numbers.
For example, in the September GOP debate, we saw Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson gain the most followers during the debate itself — 22,000 each. The next post-debate polls then showed both of them gaining the most among likely Republican voters.
By focusing on an increase in followers, we're highlighting the public at large making an actual "transaction" — following somebody is a true action somebody took, similar to voting for them. It's more than just talking about them to other people in the public. Minor as it is to click "Follow," it's investing one's attention for the future in what the candidate says.
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People are unlikely to follow someone out of spite. Instead, they would tend to mention them in a disparaging or sarcastic way, a nuance most social media discussion analyses miss.
Still, social media mentions matter, at least for marketers. Here's a look at mentions through the debate, from Brandwatch, a social media monitoring and analytics firm.
(Note: This table will be updated throughout the debate. Check back for updates.)
Several candidates gained thousands of mentions within the space of a few minutes, according to data from Brandwatch: