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One of the most underused internet marketing channels are forums. In particular, tight niche-related forums. While these forums can be tough to crack, if you can do it successfully you may just achieve a real competitive edge in your market.

The toughest hurdle to overcome when it comes to forums is their strong dislike of obvious and blatant marketing tactics. However, there are more ways to market than throwing your products or brands into people’s faces. Stealth marketing is the best approach in these forums and that takes time – and a little skill. Rather than promoting your business, your products or your brand, you are promoting yourself as an expert in that field. In fact, you are not actively promoting – by helping others, answering questions and participating in discussions, it will soon become apparent that you are an ‘expert’.

If you can achieve a reputation on one or more forums as being an expert, people will connect with you in other social media areas such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace or LinkedIn.  Once they connect with you on these sites, you can start the more agressive forms of marketing.

This is a slow process and you won’t achieve success overnight. However, if you take your time and work within the forum community rules, you may even find the process absorbing and enjoyable – and that is the key to success, being relaxed and yourself and not the hard-nosed salesperson. Because it is time consuming, most business owners treat forums with disdain, which is a pity.

The ties you build through forums are often stronger than those developed on any other social media meeting place.  It is these ties that can help to launch viral marketing programs, undertake product reviews prior to a launch, and help to protect your reputation should an individual try to bring you down. If you haven’t considered forum marketing before, check out any forums that are dedicated to your niche. This is one internet marketing approach that can be big dividends if you have the patience to play the forum game.

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