Although I follow this stuff closely, even I am sometimes surprised how far news on the web has come. Tuesday’s speech by President Barack Obama and the Republican response by Louisanna Governor Bobby Jindal was a pretty amazing example of that. I wasn’t necessarily impressed by what each man said, but rather in observing the revolutionary way more than 100,000 people watched and interacted with what was being said.

In my opinion the clear winner from the State of the Union Address (I guess technically it was called an Address To A Joint Session of the United States Congress.) wasn’t Obama or Jindal. It wasn’t the Democrats or the Republicans. No, the big winner Tuesday night was social media and YOU.

SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLAINED

If social media was the big winner Tuesday night; coming in a close second was online journalism.

In January, CNN and Facebook teamed up to link CNN.com readers with Facebook users. The goal was to create an interactive stream of conversations during Barack Obama’s inauguration. Because I was in Washington, DC at the time wearing my reporter’s hat covering the inauguration I didn’t catch any of the CNN/Facebook online coverage.  So, when I heard CNN reprised its newly formed partnership with Facebook I decided to check it out and see how it would work. Here’s a snippet of what I saw:

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Pretty impressive! Watching and listening to the President and later Gov. Jindal; and at the same time monitoring Facebook status updates raised the bar for social interaction, political discourse, news gathering and distribution.

CNN was able to collect an abundance of data from Facebook users; they then plugged that info directly into their cable news coverage. If nothing else, having instant feedback from more than 100,000 people kept some of the political talking heads focused on topics real people were concerned with and not the normal political rants associated with the cable chattering class.

I was also keeping tabs on what Twitter users were Tweeting about during the speech. I use Tweet Deck to monitor Twitter. In many ways Facebook and its partnership with CNN has stolen some of Twitter’s “instant update” thunder when it comes to covering big social events like Presidential speeches and Oscar night. I fully expect Twitter to team up with a national news cable outlet soon, my bet is MSNBC is the most logical choice.

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Not sure if ironic is the right word, but it is interesting that the growth and innovation of online social media is being driven in large part by porn and politics.  

The website TechPresident has just launched a six-part series examining this phenomenon — the politics, not the porn —  in more detail.

Everyday it seems like some new social media application, gadget or gizmo is coming out in “beta version.” I used to try and keep up with them all, but I’ve decided to remove myself from the early adopter class to early user. I’m at the point that I’m only going to use the stuff that I can actually incorporate into my personal or professional life.  

And now it appears that many “older” people are incorporating social media into their lives. In an unscientific survey of the many people who were on Facebook updating their status during President Obama’s speech it appeared to me that most weren’t college or high school students. Many were female. In fact, 55 year old women are the fastest growing group on Facebook.

So it’s becoming clearer that sites like Facebook and Twitter have evolved to the point that late adopters to social networking now have now found their reasons to jump on board and actually take part in these national and international conversations going on with their virtual “friends.”