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Who won the social media debate?

* @marcorubio led with more than 588 million impressions
* @JebBush has the most negative social mentions, 63%

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.

Read MoreRepublican Presidential Debate

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:

  • Ted Cruz was mentioned 4,889 times in one minute after commenting on media bias and the lack of substance in debates.
  • Marco Rubio saw 1,974 mentions in one minute after mentioning media bias.
  • Cruz was mentioned 1,776 after his metaphor about being a "designated driver."
  • Donald Trump was mentioned 1,480 times in a minute after saying that John Kasich "got lucky" with fracking in Ohio.
  • Carson was mentioned 2,143 times in one minute when he responded to booing from the audience with "See? They know."
  • Rubio received over 3,600 mentions over two minutes when he said the mainstream media was a Super PAC for Democrats.
  • Chris Christie was mentioned 1,900 times immediately after saying fantasy football shouldn't be discussed in the debate.