Building a WordPress Social Community with BuddyPress

The popularity of online social communities is undeniable. WordPress — the creator of the world’s most popular blogging platform — is a great example of an online social community, allowing millions of users all over the globe to freely publish content on the Internet and invite others to join the discussion.

The BuddyPress plugin, introduced to the WordPress community in 2008, was the next logical step, enabling bloggers to expand their websites to include a social community for their visitors to participate in. BuddyPress can be installed and activated from within your WordPress Dashboard — just search for BuddyPress on the Install Plugins page (choose Plugins→Add New), and then install and activate it.

BuddyPress allows you to create a similar type of social community on your own WordPress-powered website, and it helps you take your existing website to the next level by allowing your visitors to become members. A BuddyPress social community gives its members a handful of core features that are easy to set up and allows them to immediately connect with other members of the community.

Members can have extensive profiles that contain personal, biographical information that allows other members to find out more about them. Members share with other members any information they want, from personal information and news to website links, photos, videos, music, and more.

BuddyPress is an extensive suite of plugins that allows you to create the following features within your social community:

  • Extended member profiles: Include shared personal information about each member of your community.

  • Member avatars: Allow your members to upload unique, personal photos.

  • Member and site activity streams: Provide a listing of member actions and activities throughout your community.

  • Activity wires: Create a place where members can leave comments and messages for other members and groups in a public manner.

  • Member groups: Let community members gather in groups based on topics and interests.

  • Member forums: Let members create and participate in topic-related discussions with other members.

  • Blog tracking: Provides a listing of blog activity throughout your community, including new blog posts and comments.

  • Searchable member, blog, and group directories: Let you search member lists, group lists, and blogs to find specific information.

  • Member status updates: Provide short but sweet updates about what members are doing now that they can share.

You may find that you don’t want or need to use all the features that BuddyPress offers, and that’s okay. You don’t have to use them just because they exist. BuddyPress allows you to use only what you need — you can even delete extraneous features if you don’t want to use them — enabling you to tailor your BuddyPress community to your liking.

If you want to take the interactivity on your website a few steps further, you can build a social community where visitors to your website can create a membership and become part of the content and conversation.

In addition to leaving comments about articles, members can write their own articles, share more information, and participate in your site as a full contributor rather than just a visitor. Members can benefit from networking and connecting with other members within the community as well.

Here are a few examples of these types of communities, all built with the BuddyPress/WordPress platform:

  • Tasty Kitchen: An active social community of members who like to cook

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  • GigaOM Pro: A network of analysts providing technology-related research papers and notes

  • TDI Truth & Dare: By Volkswagen, a network of VW TDI drivers working to make a world-record mileage score

Whether your business is large or small, you can benefit from adding a social community component to your website by being able to invite your customers or prospects to participate in the discussion about their businesses.

If you’re wondering whether the BuddyPress plugin is right for you, head over to the official BuddyPress Test Drive site. The site was put together by the BuddyPress developers for the sole purpose of giving people an opportunity to test-drive the features and components that are available in the BuddyPress plugin.

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