Fox News puts Twitter hashtags to work for debate

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

Update: This morning Twitter released some data around last night’s debate, where Fox News used #answer and #dodge hashtags to track real-time feedback from viewers. “After a slow start and a net #dodge rating for an answer on his recent attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, Gingrich elicited strong #answer ratings for much of the remainder of the debate,” explains Twitter, which posted this graph:

Twitter also released a graph for Mitt Romney, which was mostly in #dodge territory. It will be interesting to see if this hashtag approach can be adapted to other live TV events — Twitter says the approach provided a “rich real-time picture of audience reaction to each candidate’s answer within 15 to 30 seconds.”

Earlier: While there have already been many social activations to enhance the previous Republican debates, tonight’s airing on Fox News will be the first one in which Twitter itself is getting deeply involved. They’re encouraging users to use #answer or #dodge during each question to indicate on they feel the candidate handled the question, and real-time results will appear on, powered by Mass Relevance. Fox News is then going to use this information, or at least try to, in their analysis of the debate afterwards.

Fox and Twitter have tested this kind of tracking during a December debate, and they’re now ready to execute it completely. “Fox was game to experiment with us on something that hadn’t been done before – real-time measurement of audience reaction over Twitter,” said Adam Sharp, the manager of government and political partnerships for Twitter in Washington. Last time, Fox News told us it counted 150,000 tweets with the two hashtags during the two-hour debate. With more social promotion against tonight (Monday’s) debate — and a big spotlight on South Carolina — it should generate a larger response.

Twitter’s team works with Fox hours before the debate. Photo by @ritagarg.

While using Twitter to indicate sentiment on the candidates answers seems natural, it also seems like something that will be easy to spam. If candidates teams are able to rile up their teams to tweet #dodge no matter what the candidate’s answer, it might be difficult to determine if the meter’s are accurate. In December, Ron Paul tended to have the best #answer scores across all the candidates.