A useful reminder as to why online groups are so important - and indeed potentially valuable to businesses.

Back in 2008 I launched what we think was the first social networking site in Financial Services (it probably wasn't the first but at the time we couldn't find another), but it actually started life in 2004 as a group on the old Ecademy.com networking site.

Ecademy was around several years before LinkedIn and the group functionality was frankly fantastic - and a great way to build Community around your brand and to add value to customers.

And back in 2004, creating a group was a brilliant alternative to building your own social networking site - a rather expensive option back then.

LinkedIn has offered group functionality for several years (I have one with over 23,000 members) but their redesign in recent times has made them very much less appealing, so Facebook now gets my vote for building your community online.

However, having a  group will not, in itself necessarily help your business.  The key is to constantly be adding value - constantly adding great content and constantly engaging with your group members.  

I think of it a bit like a fish tank where the fish are your community members.  Fish need feeding so that they want to keep coming back, so feed them regularly with tips, links, resources, ideas, videos and so on.

Occasionally give them something harder to chew on - blogs, articles and ideas which might challenge them or prompt deeper discussion.

However you 'feed your fish', make sure that you do it on a regular basis so that it becomes a valuable and important extension of your content marketing initiatives.

And don't forget that over time, your group has the potential to bring in income streams in its own right through advertising, sponsorship, events and product sales.

In my conference speeches and workshops I expand on the concept of 'virtual fish tanks' as a means to building community around your brand.  Please contact me through Passle or visit my website for further information.