One of the most effective ways to keep users coming back to your website - one which has proven itself against the test of time - is creating an engaged WordPress community - a small social network.
Forums, the large social networks, Facebook groups, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and lots of other websites which are always buzzing with activity are those communities who have successfully created a community on a website.
Whilst actually getting the users to create your community might be a bit of a daunting task - the foundations to set up a community is not very difficult.
In this article we're going to show you how to use WP, our choice of plugins for creating a social network and a few themes to get your mini-social network or community up and running.
First things first - you need to make sure you've got your website up and running nicely. So if you haven't done that - maybe you'll want to have a look at our article right here: How to create a complete WordPress website. If you're interested in looking at other theme roundups, have a look at the WordPress themes section.
WordPress Social network / community Plugin
Of course, once you've got your site up and running, you'll need to create the social network functions around it. There are a few plugins out there, but definitely the plugin of choice you should be using is BuddyPress for a number of reasons.
- First of all, it's free and open-source just like we like it :)
- It integrates very nicely with WP.
- There is a buzzing community arount it (I wonder why!).
- It is owned by Automaticc (the company also behind WordPress.com) so you can imagine it has some clout.
- There's lots of themes which specifically integrate with BuddyPress.
- And it pushes a WordPress blog into the realm of a social network with powerful features such as user profiles, user groups, activity streams.
So whatever community you want to buzz up - BuddyPress will give you an edge. Whether it's a school, college or campus, your company's intranet, a hobbyist community, or a social network around a product, BuddyPress is the WP plugin you should be using.
Actually setting up BuddyPress is not too difficult, and is a little bit beyond the scope of this article, so we'll leave it at that.
Just don't worry too much - it's not a daunting task. We've done this a number of times, and you won't be troubled at all - it's quite straightforward.
Once you've set up your social network, you may also want to add the most interactive of plugins you can get - a forum or bulletin board.
bbPress is another awesome piece of open-source software. bbPress is focused on ease of integration, ease of use, web standards, and speed.
The code is kept as small and light as possible while still allowing for great add-on features through WordPress's extensive plugin system.
What does all that mean? bbPress is lean, mean, and ready to take on any job you throw at it. Have a look at it here - and if you think it's a good addition to your website - then go ahead, install it and set it up!
WordPress Social Network / BuddyPress themes
We've always been of the opinion that if something doesn't look really good - then it's going to have a really hard time catching on.
So after setting up your social network using WP and BuddyPress, your next very important step is to get yourself a great looking design.
Though here's the thing, you need to make sure the look you choose is not just a template. You need to make sure your theme is Buddy Press ready - otherwise, it's going to cost you a lot of time and effort with possibly mediocre results.
So we've reviewed the best options out there and have chosen a few which we think would be great choices for setting up your WordPress community or social network.
Here's our pick!
All of these themes below are BuddyPress compatible for an excellent experience for your community's users and members.
You might still need a developer to help you customize your choice - you might want to read our guide on hiring WordPress developers.
We have to start this collection of themes to create a WordPress community and social network, with the most amazing WP product ever - and our favorite item by far: Divi.
Divi has grown to be one of the most flexible products, whether you want to use it to create a community, a blog, single page websites, or a mix of all of these, Divi has you covered. Being both a theme and a page builder, you know that you can do absolutely anything you want with Divi.
If you want to see what we think of Divi, we've got a full Divi review here - don't miss it!
Have a look at Divi, we can assure you, you'll not regret it.
We recently updated this article (December 2023) and as we were revisiting some of the prospects, we came across Reign. This theme has got it all, from building a community, to a social network, and with the possibility to also set up eCommerce on your site, so you're truly covered from every aspect.
Of course, it fully integrates with BuddyPress and BBPress so you can be sure these products work nicely.
The beauty of this theme though comes from its setup - the installation wizard is really solid and actually sets up most of the site for you, so at that point, it's just a question of tweaking some of the images and content to suit your own specific community.
It also sets up a number of additionals tools such as Revolution Slider and others for Social Sharing etc.
But the strength, of course, comes from the actual Members and Groups functionality, and BuddyPress customization options and the Inbuild Social Profile module, where the theme really shines.
These small pieces of functionality are able to take such a community site to the next level, especially if the scope of the site is dating or networking.
Some additional features
- Support for Easy Digital downloads
- rtMedia support
- Elementor built-in (check out our Divi or Elementor WordPress comparison)
- WordPress Social Login
- BP Activity social sharing
- Member Reviews
- ... and much more!
Check out the demo below.
We've also partnered with the guys at WbCom Designs to offer you an exclusive 20% OFF for CollectiveRay visitors until December 2023 only, use coupon code: COLLECTIVE20.
Kleo is a great social networking based theme - it is compatible with the latest versions of WP and Buddpress and is always getting updated to make sure it stays on top of the latest versions.
Kleo is an extremely flexible, fully customizable theme. You don't need to be a professional developer or designer to create an awesome website with Kleo. You can easily create a stunning community, or social networking website. KLEO has all the tools to get you started.
Of course, if the sole aim for your site is to create a social network or community, then you might as well for go for such a design as Mingle - this is a WordPress template which has been designed specifically for creating a community - hence the name Mingle.
Mingle is a BuddyPress ready WordPress theme. Mingle has been designed as an adaptable and highly intuitive template with administration features giving you complete control of your website’s layout and design. The unique and easy to manage design ensures your site will stand out and be remembered.
Some comments by other people who've been using Mingle can quickly show you that choosing this will be a choice you won't regret
You would be crazy not to purchase this theme, it’s got Everything!!! – furious373
Congrats on a great product. I only wish I had found this sooner and not wasted my money on other themes. – Cheers Tony
OneCommunity is fully integrated with the BuddyPress plugin. Besides the obvious, this item has got a huge list of features going on - which makes it a very good choice for a community site. Of all the BuddyPress themes we've seen, this is the one which looks most like an engaging social network - so do have a look at this one!
Many times the reason for creating a community site is to create reviews. Even if this is not the primary aim, reviews are usually quite a good feature to improve the engagement of a site. This item is focused specifically on this - reviews. Huber is a WordPress and BuddyPress theme that provides you with powerful reviews and community features.
The product has its own review system to bring you the following review features seamlessly:
- Both the post author and visitor can rate posts
- Users can rate posts from the top of the review, via the comments or both
- Multiset rating (multiple rating criteria for individual posts)
- Sort reviews by date, title, site and user ratings
- Vote up/down other users comments
Once again - it's hard to do justice to this time by words alone.
With a name like Buddy - you know that you're in for a great theme - don't you think? Coming from an Envato Elite Author, Buddy is a clean, modern and fully responsive WordPress and BuddyPress template that can be used for any type of website, whether it be business, corporate, community, magazine, portfolio, or anything else.
If you want to use it without BuddyPress or bbPress that’s fine too - it works great without them!
And yes it does look really neat:
If you're looking to create a website and community with a Corporate feel, then this is an absolutely excellent choice. Made by an Envato elite author, and one of the best selling themes on ThemeForest, you know that if you go for this theme, you're surely going to be in good hands.
DynamiX is a powerful choice as responsive community theme. Whether you want to use it for an e-commerce site using Woocommerce besides your BuddyPress community, for a church, Fitness club or Restaurant, Wedding or School site – DynamiX will give you stunning results.
If the social site you want to set up is aimed at being a dating website - then SweetDate is a perfect choice for you. It has all the features you need to create a perfect community system.
We really like the clean and modern look and feel which is very inviting - and of course, you'll have all the membership and other community features you'll need to set up your dating site.
(In case you want to know more about multisite have a look at the following: What is WordPress Multisite?
Klein is a popular WP choice built to support BuddyPress, bbPress, and if you also want to set up a WordPress online shop using WooCommerce, you can do so with this template - out of the box.
It's perfect for websites that interact with many users. The members of your website will be able to create profiles, send unlimited messages, add connections, or share important events that are happening in their life, discuss ideas through forums.
The icing on the cake - you can even sell products to your members allowing your site to maintain itself.
Salutation allows your website to become a fully functional community portal.
With its clean design focused on high-level content organization, Salutation is easy to navigate and promotes a feeling of user satisfaction.
The well-organized menus and page structures encourage a positive user experience allowing your visitors to find what they’re looking for quickly. The theme includes administration features giving you complete control of your website’s layout and design. The unique and easy to manage design ensures your site will stand out and be remembered.
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Still not convinced with these designs? You might want to look at a generic multi-purpose popular choice, such as this one here (Avada).
What other themes do you recommend for WordPress communities and social networks? Let us know!
Please leave a useful comment with your thoughts, then share this on your Facebook group(s) who would find this useful and let's reap the benefits together. Thank you for sharing and being nice!
Disclosure: This page may contain links to external sites for products which we love and wholeheartedly recommend. If you buy products we suggest, we may earn a referral fee. Such fees do not influence our recommendations and we do not accept payments for positive reviews.