"What is the hashtag?" This is one of the 1st questions event planners should ask, decide and push. It takes effort to make a hashtag stick. The only exception I've seen to this is the occasional big, breaking news story. In the end the users, specifically social influencers on Twitter, decide what the tag will be.

Tonight, and all of the debates, will be user-powered. The hashtag with the most use may or may not be the official tag determined by @UofDenver or @Gov.

I'm monitoring at least 1/2 dozen, which include #DebateDenver, #DenverDebate, #Debates, #DUDebate, #Debate2012, #Debate. 

#DebateDenver was decided weeks ago by the host of the debate, University of Denver. It's being pushed in all the press kits provided by DU.

9NEWS chose to support this hashtag for a couple of reasons, 1 being that the City of Denver and emergency responders are using this hashtag. This raises the hashtag's importance for me.

#Debates is what @Gov is using and what I believe Twitter is calling the official hashtag.

#DenverDebate seems to have the greatest reach at the time of this post. (Check and compare hashtags for yourself at Tweetreach.com, which will measure reach of 50 most recent tweets using your search term for free.)

The social conversation is fascinating to me because it's so user driven. All I can do is hold on, follow the stream, and find ways to participate with a relevant voice. 

I'll be using Geofeedia and the Twitter location search option to focus on Tweets from around Colorado. 

When it's all done analysis of the social conversation will be just as big in post-debate coverage as the accuracy of the candidates' responses.

The challenge for me, and anyone doing this, is finding what's important out of the analysis and then using it in a way that makes sense on TV and in articles.

One company I'll be watching Bluefin Labs (which has partnered with ABC) for data on social media use, conversation, sentiment, etc. I'll be searching Mashable and other sites for interesting facts, data, analysis.

There will be plenty of it. While I'm talking mostly Twitter here, the way people can experience the debates are vast.

I personally think Xbox Elections Hub and YouTube Elections Hub are going to be a success. Denver-based iVote will probably have large number of people participating as well.

What do these have that other Social TV apps don't - users, just like Twitter and Facebook. 

Newer apps that don't have as many users are hoping to make a stance during the debates, get attention and get people to try them. ConnecTV, Peel, Zeebox are 3 apps I'll be watching. ConnecTV is a partner of Gannett, so I have great interest in it. Peel seems like a fun, easy app to use and if many use it, it could generate some great, unique data. Zeebox is a new partner of NBC and will be used to create a new user experience during the debates.

Finally, CNN may be a big winner too with it's Interactive live stream that will allow people to edit the debate. 

I've written in length about some of the social TV and social media plans from media organizations and 9NEWS. Check it out on 9news.com.

Will you try a new app or interactive website or will you stick with the networks you're already using while you watch the debates?