It was oh-so-déjà-vu when I returned to the office after attending School of WOM. Just like my mother would do after a long day of classes, my boss asked me: What did you learn today? As if, magically, I had it all figured out.

Did I dare quote author and futurist Brian Solis? He opened the conference with a challenging statement: Social media, while inspired by best practices, is so new that there is no box to think outside of yet—we need to define our own best practices.

This sentiment was echoed the next day in Yahoo!’s principal research scientist Duncan Watts’ keynote presentation supporting his latest book Everything is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer. Watts reminded us that as marketers, we need to hypothesize, test and iterate as rigorously as scientists do.

So with an open mind, I took it all in—attending a variety of workshops, mingling and sharing war stories and successes with other smart, experienced and so very friendly pros. My mission: To find my own answers. While “one size does not fit all” when it comes to social engagement, there are rules of thumb that apply broadly to most brands and organizations. Here are five of my favorite school lessons learned:

1. Make it tweetable. Brands not only need to come up with messages, but also something that is significant, meaningful and shareable. Social media has given us an amazing stage, but it’s what we say when we step up to the mic that truly matters.

2. Give ‘em a reason to keep “Liking” you. Sure, you can reel them in with a chance to win a new iPad 2, but if you don’t create an experience that people want to talk about—and deliver tangible value time and time again—your customers will break up with you.

3. Don Draper would be fired today. The “Mad Men model” is a thing of the past—now, it’s all about storytelling. It’s no longer about finding your audience, showing up uninvited, interrupting and badgering them. Today, the only messages people see and hear are the ones they choose to see and hear. While we don’t have 30 seconds to be marketed to (thanks, TiVo), we do have 30 seconds for a great story. We seek them. We connect with them. And, everyone has a story to tell. Those who tell it best, win.

4. The revolution will not be televised. Rather, it will take place on a mobile browser. Like social media, mobile should not be a stand-alone program. Instead, it’s another platform for campaign activation. To be successful, mobile elements must be unique and involve location and real-time interaction. Without it—useless.

5. News Feed Optimization (NFO) is the most important invention of our time. Thanks to EdgeRank, the Facebook algorithm that controls what you see in your news feed, we need to be very strategic when we think about the content we create. Not only do we need to come up with posts that are highly engaging (Liked and commented on—a lot), but must also remember a host of other factors, such as the nature of the content (photos and videos rank high) and the time of day when we post (weekends are best since there is less competition). This is great for consumers, but for marketers, not so much.

While not commandments, these lessons can inspire us to think outside the box. What social engagement lessons would you add?

Peter Duckler

Peter Duckler