Two days ago I suggested a variation on the overused Field of Dreams quote, offering “If you’re relevant, they will come.” Providing a destination and a different slant on existing ideas is just the start.

There’s more.

Most people get excited at this point thinking about the armies of people who will be magnetically attracted to their online community once it’s struck.The destination may get noticed. Perhaps the idea behind the destination will generate excitement and interest. Ask yourself, though, what people will see when they arrive. Ask yourself who they will see when they arrive. Do you have a visible host who makes sure everyone can find their way around? Are expectations being met? Is there a reason for the community to remain in place? For members to keep coming back?

I used a restaurant analogy. I talked about the elements that go into a great restaurant: destination, atmosphere, food, service, prices people are willing to pay. Your online community requires similar elements:

Destination – Your community must located in a good and memorable online space. It must also be presentable. Have a great name and easy-to-remember URL. More importantly, the site should appear welcoming, easy to navigate and easy with which to become familiar.

Atmosphere – While a slick design which punches out content and avoids clutter is important, atmosphere is more about the tone and activity in the space. This is set in large part by the host of the community which makes it very important for the host to immerse him or herself as an active and committed participant and to become a personality rather than a robot. If the host can’t be an player or influencer in their own community, it will be nearly impossible to manage a crisis when one emerges.

Content (adapted from food) – Valuable, interesting and entertaining content will help build a dialog and motivate return visits. Of course, the goal of most communities is to have such an engaged membership that the content creation and sharing part will take care of itself. However, the host must be an active participant in the generation and sharing of content — even maintaining a content calendar for at least some days of each week. Hosts who go dark might end up sending a message that the community isn’t worth their time; a message with the potential to cascade. We can talk about what can happen in those situations another time.

Service – Just as some restaurants have greeters and hosts who make sure you feel important when you arrive, ensure you’re seated quickly and comfortably and a server is assigned to take care of you, so, too, should an online community host be concerned about the comfort of their participants. This becomes increasingly difficult if the rate-of-growth or the size of the community becomes overwhelming. However, there are many things a host can do to make sure information can be found, that they or prominent members of the community can be available to help integrate new members and support the community on an ongoing basis.

Tiered access (adapted from price) – Marketers, communicators and campaign managers love this; hobby folks not so much since conventional thought is this involves the exchange of money. It doesn’t have to. Nor are you obliged to offer tiered access. The principle behind tiered access is giving something else of value for a greater level of participation — be it a click, completed registration form, membership, sponsorship, donation or purchase.

Relevance extends beyond just the idea of an online community. Relevance must be pervasive throughout the destination, atmosphere, content, service and value. Perhaps the quote becomes “Relevance is the foundation of community.”