Originally published October 20, 2020

This is the 61st article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Rachel Happe (pronounced “hoppy”) is a community management thought leader based in Boston. She helps organizations implement emerging technologies to advance their business strategies. Rachel understands how networked communications environments can transform how people work, their productivity, and their personal satisfaction by aligning their passions, skills, and relationships. She co-founded The Community Roundtable to support business leaders developing their community and social business strategies. During her career, Rachel has served in analyst, product management, product marketing. and executive roles. She specializes in business strategy, communities, social business, and social media marketing.

I first met Rachel at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston in 2010. We were also at The APQC KM Conference in Houston in 2019 and the KMWorld 2019 conference in Washington, DC. She was kind enough to write a blurb for my Handbook of Community Management: A Guide to Leading Communities of Practice.


How Rachel describes herself:

  • Connector of ideas and people
  • Fascinated by social dynamics and false truths
  • Superpower: Simplifying the complex
  • Believes in the power of community to enable human potential


  • The Community Roundtable — Principal & Co-Founder, 2009 — Present
  • Mzinga — Sr. Director of Social Media Products, 2008–2009
  • IDC — Research Manager, Digital Business Economy, 2007–2008
  • Bitpass — Director of Product Management, Director of Account Management, Marketing Manager; 2003–2006
  • Norcal PDMA — Vice President, Conferences, 2002–2003
  • Ide — Manager of Product Marketing, 1999–2002
  • PRTM — Senior Analyst, 1996–1999
  • McCaffery & Whitener — Analyst, 1994–1995


  • Mount Holyoke College, BA in Politics, 1989–1993



  • Facebook
  1. Personal
  2. The Community Roundtable
  • Twitter
  1. Personal
  2. The Community Roundtable
  • Instagram
  1. Personal
  2. The Community Roundtable
  1. Community Management Glossary
  2. Case Studies
  3. Community Management 101
  4. Articles
  5. In the Media
  1. Articles
  2. Posts


Social Media is Not Community — July 10, 2008

I’m finding that there is a lot of confusion between the concept of social media and the concept of community. They are often used interchangeably, and they are not the same thing. Social media can help foster communities, but social media can be limited to allowing a conversation around content…which is *not* community. For example, ABC allowing people to comment on specific news stories with comments and ratings is not a community. Rating and ranking books on Amazon does not create a community. I am not suggesting that these things do not have value — they do, and it is immense and important — but it is not the same as enabling communities.

Communities have the following characteristics:

  • They are continuous, not temporal — this is not to say that people don’t drop in and out but there is a core membership that interacts together over a long period of time.
  • Communities gather around a concept or common goal not around a collection of content (although content does plays a major role, it is not the impetus for the community).
  • Communities take on various conversations and activities, led by different members over time — it is not one conversation but many.
  • People within communities get to know each other and interact regularly without centralized facilitation and not necessarily in the context of what the community is discussing as a whole.
  • Community leaders emerge over time as they continue to take proactive roles in the community and rally other members to their causes. These leaders are community members and they self-select because of their interests — not because they are told to do so…although they can be encouraged to do so.

There are two opportunities for enterprises then.

  1. to use social media to enable conversations and get a better idea of how constituents respond to specific content, initiatives, goals. This is much easier both to understand and implement.
  2. to create communities that extend their capabilities and engage their constituents in richer ways that results in higher retention, lower risk, increased ROI, and faster operational capacity. Communities have enormous strategic benefits to companies but require considerable investment (in resources, time, and tools) and are difficult to implement because they have a significant impact on business processes.

Right now, the market seems to get social media, but we still have a long way to go in helping companies understand the value, requirements, and needs of communities.

As Quoted by Me

1. The Link Between Communities and Culture Change — “Communities are the only effective way to change culture.”

2. Community Engagement Framework

  1. Validate Out Loud
  2. Share Out loud
  3. Ask & Answer Out Loud
  4. Explore Out Loud

3. Working Out Loud — LinkedIn Thread

This is a great summary of the key elements of building a knowledge-centric, learning culture. What’s interesting to me is that sharing, the heart of WOL, is not typically a normed behavior in most organizations and it has a lot to do with the technology. People don’t share much via email because it’s inherently an interruption/push behavior which can feel obnoxious (who emails 50 peers with a completed RFP without being asked, for example). In an ESN or customer community, however, the environment is such that it feels like a generous behavior… i.e., posting in case it’s helpful to anyone. Huge difference in social dynamics, which makes WOL possible.

4. Community Goals and Measurements — A discussion on success took place in The Community Roundtable:

  • Rachel Happe: I’m looking for outputs/success markers. If they do all of those things successfully, what is the result that is better than if they don’t do them or do them poorly?
  • Stan Garfield: The community stays active, continues to attract new members, and is acknowledged as a valuable resource in its field.
  • RH: Agree — just looking for how I would judge good vs. great community management. It’s squirrelly but it’s something that we are trying to tackle as part of our research. If the industry doesn’t define it, other people will and not in a way we want (hello, how many likes did your Facebook group get?!?)
  • SG: In the simplest terms, good communities endure, and bad ones don’t.
  • RH: Absolutely — the long term success is clear, but if I have 5 community managers on my team, how do I know they are doing their jobs well? For example, is growth necessary? Not sure, because if you have a good size community that maintains a good engagement rate, growth wouldn’t necessarily be a good measure. Success really comes down to how the community feels about the community (not the community manager) — for us, that’s hard to ask community managers to self-report well, especially if they have not measured their community for it.
  • SG: Growth is not necessary, but some slight growth over time is a positive indicator. Decrease in membership is definitely a bad sign. You can monitor what is being shared, how lively the discussions are, if the events are well-attended, do many people volunteer to present, is there a good variety of participants, do new members feel safe to contribute, etc. To find out how the community feels, ask the members to provide feedback, either openly or privately.
  • RH: That’s a lot closer to what I’m trying to get at, and brings up the diversity of respondents as well as the diversity of leadership. Both of these correlate to research from the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence when they look at the trust/innovativeness of a network.

5. Do Enterprises Have the Patience to Develop Communities?

Communications, expectations, and business seem to move faster than ever these days. With the constant buzz of the Blackberry, a continuous stream of Tweets, and in incessant interruption of IMs our attention spans have dwindled even more. Our collective attention and patience is a dwindling resource. Yet, community dynamics still require a long-term view.

Communities — and I don’t mean flash mobs, groups of 10 people, or event attendees because those are not communities — take time to develop and flourish. Measuring communities based on quarterly earnings calendars is a bad way to go but most businesses are focused on short term performance. We are under such intense pressure to show results that we often abort efforts that play out over longer periods.

Communities are one of the hardest types of organizations to launch, develop, and sustain. Two years is a reasonable ramp period and growth comes in fits and starts — metrics have to change over time too. I suggest the following:

  1. Phase 1 (0–12 months): New members, page views, ratings, comments
  2. Phase 2 (12–24 months): UGC, posts/user, visits/user/month, % of active members
  3. Phase 3 (24 months +): Activity of community leaders, initiatives/ideas generated, ROI/value measures

Articles by Others

  1. KM Experts Respond: How To Capitalize on KM “Super-Users”
  2. KM Experts Respond: The Biggest Mistakes Organizations Make with Communities of Practice
  3. KM Experts Respond: How Are Consumer Trends Impacting Enterprise Collaboration?


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Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/