Create a social network website using WordPress? Yes, you can create a social website with WordPress, like I have always say, you can do more with your WordPress with the power of plugins.
Basically, I will put you through this using a popular plugin called BuddyPress. BuddyPress is a WordPress plugin that helps you create and manage social networks so that users are able to interact and communicate with each other in a very intuitive way. A set of plugins adds specific features that you can mix-and-match to customize the network as per your requirements.
BuddyPress can also be used to create a community forum website, many WordPress developers prefer using other forum plugins rather than using BuddyPress because they believe BuddyPress is hard and complex to set-up, it’s actually easy. LOL!
Okay right now, we are creating a WordPress social network that allows users to sign up, connect with each other, post messages, and more. In this article, I will show you how to turn your WordPress site into a social network.
Sorry, I won’t need to mention some stuff I have mentioned before in previous posts, I will only share links for you to read them.
If you have not got the basic knowledge of WordPress before, kindly read the tutorials listed below as we proceed.
Now let’s get continue.
What is BuddyPress?
BuddyPress is a sister project of WordPress.org. It is available as a free WordPress plugin that you can install on your website.
It turns your WordPress site into a social network allowing you to build your own online community. Here are some of the features of a typical BuddyPress powered website:
- Users can register on your website
- Users will be able to create extended user profiles
- Activity streams allow users to follow site-wide updates
- You will be able to create sub-communities with user groups
- Users can add each other as friends
- Users can send private messages to each other
- BuddyPress functionality can be extended using third-party plugins
- Works with any standard compliant WordPress theme
- Can be set up with your existing WordPress site
Setting Up BuddyPress For Social Network
Upon activation you need to visit Settings » BuddyPress page to configure plugin settings.
- Extended Profiles: When enabled, you can add custom fields to the user profile.
- Account Settings: Checking this item allows users to change their account and notifications directly from the profile screen.
- Friend Connections: When enabled, users can send friend requests to other site users. If the request is accepted, users can monitor each other via the activity log.
- Private Messaging: When this option is enabled, users can send private messages to other members both individually and in a group.
- Activity streams: This option allows users to see activities of their friends on the social website including threads, comments, mentions, direct posting and favoriting. Users are also notified via email.
- Notifications: This option allows users to receive instant notification of friends’ activities, including friend requests, private messages etc.
- User Groups: This option let the users create public, private or hidden groups of nature.
- Site Tracking: When enabled, records activity related to new posts and comments.
The settings page is divided into different sections. You’ll first see the components page which shows you currently active BuddyPress components on your site.
The default components would work for most websites. However, you can activate or deactivate a component by simply checking and unchecking the box next to it.
Don’t forget to click on the save settings button to store your changes.
Next, you need to click on the Pages tab. Here you can select the pages you would like to use for different BuddyPress sections on your site.
By default, the plugin will automatically create pages for you. You can change them and use a different page if you want.
If you don’t see the option to select registration and activation pages, then you need to enable user registration on your WordPress site.
To enable user registration, you need to visit Settings>> General on your admin panel and the member option the states Anyone can register
Now, go back to the BuddyPress tab, you will need to switch to the ‘Options’ tab.
Here you will find different settings that you can turn on/off in BuddyPress. The default settings will work for most websites, but you can review and change them as needed.
Setting Up The Front Page
One of the most important part of the process is to set a front page of your website. When a visitor comes to your website, this is the first page they will see.
In this example, I have set the “activity” page as the front page of my website. For this, go to Settings > Reading.
Now click Save Changes button.
Displaying BuddyPress Pages on Your Website
If you visit your website after setting up BuddyPress, you’ll not see anything new added to your site. To change this, you need to add BuddyPress pages to your WordPress navigation menu. Visit Appearanc>> Menu to add the pages to your menu bar.
Head over to Appearance » Menus page. Select the BuddyPress pages from the left column and click on add to menu button.
Don’t forget to click on the save menu button to store your changes.
You can now visit your website to see the links in action.
Clicking on a link will take you to a BuddyPress page. For example, the activity link will show you what’s going around in your BuddyPress social network. You can also post a status update from this page.
BuddyPress works with all standard compliant WordPress themes. It also comes with its own templates to use in case your theme doesn’t have BuddyPress specific templates.
Some themes that I know are compatible with BuddyPress are;
Remove the theme default widgets, and configure them according to your need.
Add BuddyPress Widgets To The Sidebar
Below are festures for each widgets;
(BuddyPress) Login: This widget incorporates BuddyPress login functionality. The widget presents the login form in the side menu bar.
(BuddyPress) Latest Activities: This widget shows the recent activities on the BuddyPress site, allowing the users to follow what’s trending in the community.
(BuddyPress) Members: This side menu widget lists all the recent, popular and active members.
(BuddyPress) Recently Active Members: As the name suggests, this widget displays recently active members.
(BuddyPress) Who’s Online: Being online does not mean that the user is also active. This widget helps the other users see other online members.
(BuddyPress) Primary Navigation: This show activity and mentions to all the users. This is the primary navigation and should be visible at the top of all other widgets.
Managing Your WordPress Social Network in BuddyPress
Building an online community requires a lot of active participation by the site admins. You would want to combat spam and moderate user generated content.
If you are already using Akismet, then BuddyPress will use it to catch spam. However, some unwanted content may still slip away.
BuddyPress comes with built-in tools to deal with that.
Head over to the Activity page in your WordPress admin area, and you will see recent activity on your website with different actions.
You can sort the activity items by action, delete items, or mark them as spam.
Similarly, you can go to Users page to manage user accounts. You can delete users, edit their profiles, or mark suspicious accounts as spam.
You can manage new users by visiting the manage signups page. This allows you to directly activate new users, resend them activation email, or delete spam accounts.
Creating and Managing Groups in BuddyPress
BuddyPress allows you and your users to create groups. These groups act as sub-communities on your website. Each group can have it’s own members and activity streams. Users can join these groups, invite other users, post messages, and more.
To create a new group, you can head over to the Groups page and click on the add new button at the top.
This will bring you to the add new group page. First you need to provide a name and description for your group. After that, click on the ‘Create group and continue’ button to proceed.
On the next page, you can select group’s privacy settings and who can invite other users to the group. BuddyPress allows you to create public, private, and hidden groups.
Public groups are available for all users to join.
Private groups are listed in the groups directory, but users will have to request to join. If approved, then then they will be able to view its contents.
Hidden groups can only be seen by members who are part of the group. These groups are not listed in the groups directory, and they do not appear in search results.
After setting up privacy options, click on the next button to continue.
Now you can provide a photo to be used as group’s profile photo.
Next, you need to add a cover photo for the group and click on the next button.
Lastly, you can invite other users to join the group. You can only invite users you’ve added as friends. If you haven’t added any friends yet, then you will have to wait for users to discover the group and join it on their own.
Click on the finish button and BuddyPress will now setup your group.
Users can view groups by visiting the groups page on your site which shows the directory of groups on your website.
Clicking on a group name will show the group’s page where users can join a group, post updates, and follow group activity.
Managing Email Notifications
Email notifications are the only way your BuddyPress site can alert users about new activity in their social stream. To encourage user participation, you may want to customize those email messages.
BuddyPress allows you to modify email notifications sent by your WordPress social network. This helps you change the messages to match your site’s branding and tone.
You can visit the Emails page to see the list of default email notifications. You will see the email title, and the situation when the email is sent to a user.
You can click on the Add New button at the top to create a new email notification. You can also click on the edit button below an email message to change it.
Lastly, you can also use the email customizer to modify the email colors, header, and footer areas.
Installing WordPress BuddyPress could be tough though.LOL!, and the process could take time. There are a few things that could go wrong, and I have tried to present solutions to the most common problems that could mar your BuddyPress experience.
I also encourage readers to feel free to ask their questions via the comments section below. I would be glad to answer and guide you. Happy Connecting!