With holiday shopping in full swing, it’s all about the great find – that hidden gem that speaks to you and more importantly, to the lucky ones on the receiving end. And that was my mission in scouring the pages and pages of research in Comblu’s 2012 study – to look for those nuggets of great online community engagement in not-so-expected places. Here are some of my favorites:

Got Potential

New in 2012, a beta online community by Wells Fargo focuses on “engaging parents, students, guidance counselors and financial advisors to discuss and share information about college planning.” What’s cool about it? First, it’s got great bones – clear and easy navigation, mission appropriate engagement and active discussions, faceted search to help you find the answers you’re looking for, consistent community management, and good return motivators (reputation management and member recognition).

Wells Fargo Beta Community

Second, it’s a bright spot in the fairly lackluster banking and financial services sector. Not a whole lot of high performing communities in this highly regulated industry. And third, we’re speculating that if the beta takes off, it’ll likely serve as a “hub” for additional ‘life event’ centered communities, like retirement planning and first time home buying, for example. As with any new community, it’s all about acquisition upfront – building a base of members to fuel those discussions. It’ll be interesting to see if it lives up to its potential.

Room to Grow

The debate continues about the relative merits of Facebook vs. online communities. While we’re strong proponents of a ‘better together” integrated approach, there are some brands who make great use of Facebook as the backbone of its community strategy. Beyond the usual timeline posts, Westin Hotels, part of the Starwood Group, engages fans on its Discover tab. In addition to showcasing select highly rated destination properties with guest feedback and access to reviews, consumers can shop for Westin’s Home Collection bedding and spa products, book their stay, share their feedback and experiences, and engage with its ‘resident’ fitness expert about staying fit on the road.

Westin Discover Community







Sounds simple but you’d be surprised by how few brands do more than the standard “blocking and tackling” on the social network, even when it’s their primary community engagement hub. Westin integrates its Facebook community well with the main website and also extends the Discover experience to mobile – another rarity in our study.

Live-Social Integration

With the exception of Starbucks, the beverage industry has not been tearing it up in the study historically. But this year, the sector made major leaps in engagement. With Coca-Cola joining Starbucks among the ‘bright lights’ in 2012 and four of five brands demonstrating cohesive strategies, there are some great lessons to pick up here. One element that stands out to me is the close integration of online and offline engagement.

Take Bacardi and its ‘community without walls’ approach. The brand crowd sourced two live events – in New York and Las Vegas – based entirely on its Facebook fans’ preferences in music, food, leisure activities, forms of entertainment and, of course, cocktails. Consumers could win an invite to one of the “Like it Live, Like it Together” events by sharing their best experiences with friends.

In synch with its brand POV of getting people together (over a great cocktail made with Bacardi), there’s the Bacardi Party Planner widget on Facebook. You tell it how many guests, how long the party will last, the theme, the meal and they provide you with drink recipes and a Spotify playlist that you can easily download right from Facebook.

Bacardi party starter widget

So what do all of these ‘gems’ have in common? They’re:

· Consistent with who the brand is and wants to be;

· Relevant to the target consumers’ interests and needs;

· Not an ‘island’ – they play well with other social assets; and,

· Pretty easy to engage with ongoing.

We found countless examples of brands doing it right when it comes to creative, on-target engagement. I just cherry picked a few of my favorites – a few surprisingly from segments not cited for their community prowess. You never know where great inspiration will come from – when you find it, consider it a gift.

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.