On Saturday, the remaining Democratic candidates for president will take the stage for the second Democratic debate. The debate will take place in the ultra important state of Iowa, and it will be hosted by CBS News. While it's unclear exactly what the second Democratic debate will focus on, it is clear that Twitter will have a big influence.
Along with CBS News, Twitter will sponsor Saturday's debate. It's not the first time that a social media company has partnered with a cable news company to host a debate — Facebook partnered with Fox News and CNN, respectively, on both the first Republican debate and the first Democratic debate earlier this year — but it is the first go-around for Twitter. With its involvement, be prepared for live-tweeting to take on a whole new significance.
In a statement announcing Twitter's partnership with CBS News, the microblog platform described what its role will be on Saturday evening:
Twitter will provide CBS News with real-time data and insights, and will bring live reactions and questions from voters around the country onto the debate stage.
As a result, tweets, retweets and other engagement on Twitter will likely help steer the debate questions in a certain direction. They could also become questions themselves.
For its part, CBS News has worked with Twitter to prepare coverage that integrates the conversation online. That likely means that viewers could see some selected tweets on the screen while they watch in real-time, although hopefully with Twitter on board, that process will go smoother than when CNBC tried to include tweets in the second Republican debate last month. Twitter's involvement could likely also mean that the moderators will ask questions that have been submitted via tweets.
When Facebook partnered with CNN for the first Democratic debate in October, moderators asked questions submitted via Facebook. Facebook and CNN also allowed Facebook users to vote on different parts of the debate in real-time to provide instantaneous feedback to CNN. It's possible that this is what Twitter meant when it mentioned providing "real-time data and insights" to CBS News during the debate.
Facebook, however, turned its partnership into more than a debate-specific project. Back in September, Facebook launched an exclusive partnership with CNN that will give the CNN team access to special Facebook data throughout the debate season — even when CNN isn't hosting a debate. Like Facebook, Twitter has become a primary source for debate reactions and feedback, so it will be interesting to see if Twitter launches a partnership like this, whether it's with CBS News or a different news outlet.
No matter what Twitter decides to do beyond Saturday's debate, one thing is certain: If you want to be included in the real-time debate conversation — and potentially have your question asked by a moderator — you'll have to tweet using #DemDebate.