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Who won the Democrat debate on social?

(L-R) Democratic Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin OMalley arrive for the second Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sheslow Auditorium of Drake University on November 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
(L-R) Democratic Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin OMalley arrive for the second Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sheslow Auditorium of Drake University on November 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

It's a bite-sized version of a candidate's stump speech.

The presidential candidates of both parties are taking to Twitter this campaign season more than ever before. And why not? With 316 million monthly active users, the social media is a prime avenue for interacting with voters.

We've been following voters' interactions with the GOP side in the past debates, and found that the number of Twitter followers a candidate acquires during a debate is a pretty good predictor for their post-debate poll position.

Now we're turning to the Democrats. With just three candidates, it's a smaller field so swings in the polls are less likely on a short-term basis. But the debate was on a Saturday night, so whoever tuned in is likely to be especially interested in hearing the candidates speak and could have changed their minds based on what they heard.

It's the second debate of the Democratic primary, and voters are getting a sense for the different candidates and who they want to hear more from. We've already seen the departure of former Governor Lincoln Chafee and former Senator Jim Webb.

In Saturday's debate, Bernie Sanders' pointed attacks on Hillary Clinton resonated with some viewers and the U.S. senator from Vermont picked up more than 10,000 followers. Clinton and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley each acquired 4,000.

That said, Clinton already had more than 4.5 million followers, so it's possible that those who are going to follow her already do.

It may sound silly to measure political success based on 140 character bursts, but it makes sense if you think about it. "Following" someone on Twitter is making more of an investment in them than just listening: It's essentially opening up to hear their ideas in the future.

A lot of social media analytics focus on mentions, but that can be a misleading indicator. It's hard for algorithms to tell if someone is being mentioned kindly or being made fun of, and Twitter can be a prime spot for derision. People are unlikely to follow someone out of spite or sarcastically.