Networking, networking, networking.... there I've said it three times. That makes it a folk song.
If we subtract the shameless self-serving sharkish attitude of the previous two decades from the term "networking" we are left with something which is of value both to the marketeer and the communal society at large. So let's give it a new term -- at least for the moment. We'll refer to "networking" as "social involvement".
The concept of social involvement allows for a fresh take on the process of networking. One which might be closer to a form of service. Remember the time when offering a good service at a good price was the formula for success? Admittedly this was never the general rule. But there are many fine examples of companies which made their mark based on this premise.
In the area of message boards and online chats the notion of service through social involvment will take you far -- much farther than shameless self-promotion.
Message boards are a great place to seek and provide answers. Both can be of value. Asking a genuine question on a message board can generate as much involvement and potential targeted traffic to your website as providing answers might. In some cases giving another a chance to be helpful is the surest means to involving them in your website.
Message boards are a great place to learn and share your experience. All the while including that all important signature byline at the bottom of your posts. That 4 lines or less statement of our name and website(s).
You can either go onto a message board and proclaim through blaring advertising (which may be filtered by the monitor) come buy my world famous cookies -- best in the universe, buy, buy, buy.... Or, you can enter into a discussion on that same message board seeking advice concerning the best means of shipping your excellent cookies. In both hypothetical situations your cookies are mentioned. Except in the second example folks will surely be better predisposed to you and your cookies. No one likes shameless self-promotion. People may respond to it in the short run. So you need to ask yourself: "Are you in this for the short run or the long haul?"
If you have a genuine attitude of social involvement rather than pent-up marketing hype most of the rules for posting on message boards will come naturally.