Despite the fact that you may not use ‘em, forums are far from being “dead”. On the contrary, the forums that have ‘survived’ the large push toward social networks are stronger than ever and should be seen with high regard for their sheer size.

Like any good marketer, you’ll want to diversify your link and brand portfolio; forums are the perfect platform for doing both. Here’s how to make it worth your while …

Cut through the chatter and have real conversations with people.

First and foremost, always treat forums with respect because these communities have often been around for many years. The community members are die-hard fans of the board and will be relentless at attacking you if you seek to destroy the “balance” on the board; it’s much like you’re invading new turf – you have to walk softly. Joining a forum, blasting links, and starting trouble is the fastest way to get banned, shunned, or called out for bad behavior.

Secondly, you should strive to use the forum as platform much like you do with your website. You should treat your profile and topical discussions with the same attention to detail and finesse as you push on your main, branded publishing platform. In essence, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do on the web properties you own. You should be using the forum as a new platform that commands just as much work as you put elsewhere.

Third, create content that sticks or in forum terms: stickied. Yes, you could spend the next few years writing new threads about topics in your area but why not go for the big win by getting one of your content pieces stuck to the board so everyone and their mother can see. The easiest way to do this is to create a wildly entertaining, and informational, thread that’s relevant to the forum users; this is a bit difficult but if you spend enough time on the board, than you’ll see the opportunities.

Finally, be active on forums so you can build and nurture a network of like-minded individuals. When you think about it, the people using the forums for a long time are so engrained within the topics and industry that they’re also consumers that drive the market. Your job is to become one with the community and forge relationships with these individuals which will eventually convert to buying from you over the competition because you’re buddied up with ‘em.

In all, this will take a lot of work because it’s a long-term strategy but it also creates long-term potential for future sales and opportunities to go beyond what’s possible with merely pushing out content or shooting out a status update.