Building Community Sites with WordPress: 15 Plugins to Get Started
Most bloggers would love to see more of a sense of community among the regular visitors to their blog. Sure, discussions sometimes take place in the comments of various posts, but it all seems a bit disorganized and they never really get off the ground. There has to be a better way to create a real sense of community on a WordPress blog.
The good news is that there are plenty of great plugins out there that can help you get your visitors more involved in your blog. Some are simple: they let your users submit content they think is useful, or make it easier to have a real discussion in comments. Others are more complex, on par with full-featured social networks like Facebook. All of them can help you create a community surrounding your blog and your content.
Encourage User-Generated Content
Even if you post on your blog every day, sometimes it would be nice to have some help. So why not ask your regular visitors to submit content they think your other visitors might find useful? Of course, they can do this already by emailing you or adding a link in the comments, but then you still have to do most of the work. The plugins below will simplify getting these user submissions to a publishable state on your blog.
Community Submitted News
Community Submitted News lets any visitor to your blog submit content. All content is sent to a moderation panel and nothing is made public until it has been approved by an administrator (which prevents spam postings from being made live). It’s a great idea if you have an active community surrounding your blog but don’t always have time to write original content. It also gives your blog’s readers a more active role in content creation.
WordPress Wiki was created by the same developers who created the WP e-Commerce plugin. It’s a full-featured wiki plugin for WP that lets you specify certain posts or pages as editable as wiki pages, while leaving other pages or posts in their traditional, un-editable format.
FV Community News
FV Community News is another plugin that lets users submit posts from other blogs to your site for inclusion. It includes a moderation panel and works within a widget on your site. It also has built-in spam protection and give administrators the ability to edit submissions.
TDO Mini Forms
The TDO Mini Forms plugin lets your subscribers or even non-registered users submit or edit posts and pages. Submissions are kept in “draft” form until approved by an administrator. The same can be done with edits. It can even be configured to work with Akismet to filter out spam submissions.
Even if you’re not interested in setting up a social network surrounding your blog, wouldnt’ it be nice to see your visitors able to better interact with each other, and for you to be able to interact with them more easily? Whether this means setting up a forum or just making it easier for discussions to take place in your comments, the plugins below will help.
The Gigya Socialize plugin lets you incorporate social APIs (like Facebook Connect, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and MySpace ID) to your site and let your visitors become more engaged. Visitors can invite friends from their preferred social network. It also lets you publish status and newsfeed updates directly to your social networks.
Adding a forum to your blog is an easy way to increase interaction among your visitors. WP-Forum is a simple discussion forum plugin. It can be used with a single WP blog or with WordPress MU.
Adding Threaded Comments to you WP blog lets you turn the comments section on every post into a discussion, where users can reply directly to other users and have their response appear directly under the original comment (rather than just in chronological order). It’s a great option for encouraging your visitors to engage not just with you, but with each other as well.
Comment Per Paragraph
Comment Per Paragraph is actually a WP theme, but it has some valuable features that can really add to the interaction on your blog. Basically, this theme lets your visitors comment on each paragraph within a post, rather than just at the end of the post. It makes commenting or discussions on specific points within your post much easier and more user-friendly.
Digress.it is a plugin that lets your visitors add notes in the “margins” of a blog post, much the same as one would in a book. The difference here is that these notes are visible to everyone, and anyone can add a note. It can be used in an educational setting, to annotate a post, or even to offer criticism.
Feedback by Paragraph
Feedback by Paragraph is another plugin that lets users leave comments on individual paragraphs within a post. Comments are shown in a Thickbox pop-up. Comments here respect settings of individual posts as far as who is allowed to post, and moderation policies are also honored. The fact that paragraph-level comments are kept separate from the main content is a nice feature that makes it easy to implement without requiring any kind of redesign.
Turn WordPress Into a Social Network
If you want to go all in and create a social network on your WordPress-powered site, the plugins below are the place to start. They range from very simple plugins that basically just let you set up user profiles to full social networking packages that let your users do almost everything they can do on mainstream social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn.
BuddyPress is a powerful set of social networking plugins for WordPress. It’s quick to install and set up, and can be as complicated or simple as you want. One of the nice features about BuddyPress is that you can turn on or off specific features whenever you want, making it as powerful or simple as you need.
Mingle is a simple social networking plugin for WordPress. It works with most WP themes, and lets you set up profile pages, friend lists, profile page posts (like status updates), profile activities, social comments, and email notifications. It’s not as full-featured as BuddyPress, but it’s also simpler to set up and works with a wider range of themes.
Customize Your Community
The Customize Your Community plugin lets you not only change your WP login page, but also makes it so subscribers to your site are redirected to a profile editing page rather than the WP backend. It changes the way your registration, login/logout, and lost password pages look so they no longer contain any WP branding information. Users with roles set to anything other than “subscriber” will still see the traditional WP backend, though login/logout pages, etc. will show the customized design.
Community Blogs for BuddyPress
This plugin lets you create group or community blogs with multiple authors within BuddyPress. Administrators on a BuddyPress site can use the plugin to give a member registered user status to any blog they choose within the site (or multiple blogs). It’s a great option for extending the collaboration features of a BuddyPress site.
Profiler creates user profiles for every registered user on your blog, including Gravatar images. It also creates a members directory and can be used with the User Photo plugin and the Whisper plugin.
Think through the kinds of social interactions you’d like to take place on your blog and then find a plugin that will help you foster those interactions. The above list isn’t exhaustive, so if you know of other great WP plugins for building community around your content, please add them in the comments below!
- 20+ WordPress Plugins for your Membership or Community Site – A great roundup of plugins useful specifically to membership sites (including paid membership sites).
- 10 WordPress Plugins to Help Build Community – A collection of plugins that can help build a sense of community on your blog.
- Creating a Social Network Using WordPress MU – A tutorial for setting up your own social networking site from Holdfire.
- How To Build a Social Networking Site Using WordPress – A great article from MakeUseOf.com on using BuddyPress to create a social network.
Cameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with many years of experience. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing. She’s also the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.