True or False? Talking about the Jersey Shore over your company’s social network adds value to the enterprise.

To many, this might seem like a ridiculous question. How could trading IMs with a colleague about Snookie’s latest tirade possibly add to a company’s bottom line? It would more likely hurt it, some would even argue.

But pose the same query to the members of the “Enterprise Next -- How Social Data Will Shape the Enterprise” panel at GigaOm’s Structure Conference held in New York City last week, and you might get a different answer. Especially if the Jersey Shore conversation is happening between someone in Sales and someone in Marketing who had never before found a reason to speak. They might eventually learn enough about the other’s work at the company that they’ll find an occasion to help one another.

Snookie, the Great Uniter?

A silo busted could represent a win.

“Employee engagement has shown over and over again that it increases earnings,” saysCameran Evans, a data scientist at SocialCast (VMWare) who spoke on the panel.

And though she wasn’t referring specifically to the Jersey Shore question when she said this (but a similar question, referencing the show was posed during the discussion), it’s fair to say that she, David Gutelius of Jive and panel host Mathew Ingram all think that “getting social” in the enterprise has value.

Leaders of Fortune 500 companies are beginning to think so too, according to Gutelius. “Eighteen months ago we were at a point where a lot of people were still questioning what’s this whole social thing. They sort of heard about Facebook, and unfortunately saw their employees spending a lot of time on it during the workday,” he says.

Faster Solutions with Stronger Communication

But the suspicion aroundSocial’s value in the Enterprise is now gone, he explains. Instead Gutelius is hearing his customers say, I know this (Social) is going to provide value. I know I have to do this. I know I have to do this in the right way.I just don’t know where to start.

Learning Opportunities

And, of course, Jive and Socialcast are there to provide guidance (and no, it probably doesn’t include the Jersey Shore or Facebook). “It’s definitely helping customers to find the right path to launching these type of (social) networks in their company and to make sure they are doing it correctly,” says Evans.

Both SocialCast and Jive say that they have success stories to share, as well as the qualitative and quantitative data to prove that Social within the Enterprise is good for business. “It comes from data,” says Evans, such as showing how much faster employees get answers to their questions. “Solutions that would have taken weeks or months are coming through in hours because someone has the info needed.”

Social is the Glue that Binds

But the promise of Enterprise Social might be even bigger than that, according to the panelists. Evans calls Social the “glue” over the enterprise. Gutelius talks about Jive’s vision of taking older enterprise systems andhooking them into Social. “What’s the value you can create from that?” he asks. It’s a rhetorical question, but the answer he’s looking for is “Huge.”

There are also references to the possibilities of Big Data-like analytics drawn from the huge amounts of data we have about the way we work, who we work with and what we work on. What kind of insights might they provide?

Image courtesy of Sean De Burca (Shutterstock).

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: