If you’re using social media to connect with friends, gain business exposure or share your latest cooking conquest, it’s time to start thinking bigger.

Recently, The Company Lab and The Enterprise Center hosted Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Chattanooga Road Show at Greenspaces. The presentation featured ORNL’s David Resseguie, a computer and information research scientist, who shared some social media technologies and trends, lab-style.

Located in the Gig City’s backyard, ORNL is a multiprogram science and technology laboratory managed for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) by UT-Batelle, LLC. ORNL was originally created for purposes of the Manhattan Project, but its mission has since evolved. Today, ORNL delivers scientific discoveries and breakthroughs to facilitate solutions in clean energy and global security while fostering economic growth nationwide.

In recent years, ORNL has demonstrated the information-gathering capabilities of social media. During his talk, David discussed how social networking tools can be used to mine and analyze crucial information and big data, which ultimately could help researchers gain a better understanding of global problems – think healthcare crises or natural disaster issues – and find effective solutions, faster.

He referenced the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Problems) Red Balloon Challenge, a 2009 competition that explored the roles of Internet and social networking when it comes to solving broad-scope, time-sensitive problems. More than 4,000 teams entered the $40,000 challenge, which had a single objective: use social media to find the GPS coordinates for 10, 8-foot weather balloons planted in undisclosed locations across the continental U.S. Participants had only nine hours to complete their mission.

The winning team, a group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, won by creating a pyramid scheme of sorts, offering a sliding scale of prize money to social media players who helped find the 10 balloons. David said that M.I.T.’s concept shows the potential for using incentive programs to collect or track crucial data.

David encouraged GIGTANK teams to leverage the usual social media suspects – Twitter, Facebook and beyond – as they gather information for their own startups and business concepts.

The presentation included a Speed Pitch session highlighting ORNL technologies from the computational sciences portfolio. To learn more, check out the links below: