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 here: https://www.collectiveray.com/wp/themes/
1. BuddyPress - the social network / community WordPress 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.
2. Need a forum too? - bbPress
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!
3. Awesome WordPress / 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.
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 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 lists 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 a 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 review 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!
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 setup 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 setup your dating site.
9. Plexus - Multisite Network WordPress/BuddyPress Template - No longer available
This one looks really fun if you want to setup a social networking site or especially if you want to setup a blogging network.
Plexus is a clean, modern and fully responsive WP and BuddyPress design that allows you to make the most of multisite to host a blog network. (In case you want to know more about multisite have a look at the following: What is WordPress Multisite?
And if you want to get to know Plexus a little better, the theme comes with detailed documentation and top-notch free support. It picks up content from various blogs, categories, and tags, so you'll be able to keep your home page fresh and your community always engaged with the latest content.
Klein is a popular WP choice built to support BuddyPress, bbPress, and if you also want to setup 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.
Still not convinced with these design? 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!