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Sunday’s NBC debate to feature real-time Facebook comments

This Sunday morning, Republican candidates will gather in New Hampshire for a live debate co-sponsored by NBC’s Meet the Press and Facebook. In advance of the debate, Facebook conducted a poll of a selected sample of residents in New Hampshire and Iowa — via a simple poll in the right column of Facebook.com — asking them to select the issue most important to them. And NBC News has been collecting debate questions via Facebook, as well.

We spoke with Betsy Fischer, Executive Producer of Meet the Press, about what we can expect on Sunday. “I’ve been really impressed with the questions. They’ve given us good ideas,” she said, explaining the Facebook submissions so far have influenced several lines of questioning planned for Sunday. “I’ve found it’s a very helpful tool to get a temperature of what people are saying.”

During the live debate, viewers will also be able to provide real-time feedback via Facebook, which may influence moderator David Gregory’s questions and follow-ups. Using Mass Relevance, producers will be picking some of the best comments (250 characters or less) to scroll in lower-third graphics throughout the debate. While this is common with Twitter, it will be one of the first times we’ve seen real-time Facebook integration during a live broadcast.

To help promote the show, Facebook’s politics page and several NBC accounts are sharing this photo, as well as RSVP’ing to the event:

Meet the Press is increasingly integrating social media into the weekly show — David Gregory has been an early-adopter of Twitter, for example. “It gives us an opportunity to engage our viewers and make the experience beyond what it normally is,” she said. “Once you’re engaged online, you’ve submitted a question, you’re more apt to turn on the show and see what’s going on.”

The debate will stream live on NBCPolitics.com (with an integrated Facebook plugin) and Facebook beginning at 9 a.m. ET, and viewers will be able to leave real-time comments in both places.

“I’ve been working on debates for the last 10 to 15 years, and this election cycle more than ever, the social media aspect has changed how we do our jobs as reporters,” Fischer said. “It’s definitely changed how campaigns are being covered and how voters are receiving their news about the candidates.”

(Full disclosure: I work for BreakingNews, which is part of the msnbc.com digital network)

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