WordPress has so lowered the entry bar for web publishing that you can create any kind of website in the time it takes to walk your dog around the block. Don’t love or own a pup? Well, you can create any WordPress site, including a social network, in the time it takes to get a coffee at Starbucks.
By any means, we’re assuming you already have a business plan in place because it will come in handy as we saw in how to build a freelance business using WordPress. Other than that, you’ll need a couple of other things to set up your social network.
What You’ll Need
- WordPress obviously – Installed locally or on your web server
- A social network plugin – We will list some of the best WordPress social network plugins there is; just choose one that tickles your fancy
- A social networking WordPress theme – While you can use any WordPress theme, we recommend going with a social network theme that will make your job easier
Ready? Alrighty mate, here we go.
We are always all about WordPress, and today we are looking at how we can bend the platform to create, run and manage a one of a kind social network you’ll be proud of.
First things first. To enjoy this guide, you need to have at least one instance of WordPress running either locally or online. I just installed a fresh copy of WordPress on a subdomain because my web host, Bluehost, supports WordPress quick installs via Mojo Marketplace.
Aside: If you’re wondering, I’m still with Bluehost even after I was hacked because they offered to buy me cake and took time to apologize for shoddy support. What? I’m not one to hold grudges and I would love to see you say no to free cake. Well, everybody deserves a second chance, right?
If you’d like to try out this tutorial on a local installation but don’t have that already going on for you, please spare a few moments and check out the following resources:
- Install WordPress locally on Mac using MAMP
- Install WordPress locally on Windows using WAMP
- Install WordPress locally on Ubuntu using LAMP
With your installation up and running, let’s add social networking capabilities because – as powerful as WordPress is – it doesn’t come with the requisite features we need to run a fully fledged social network. Have no fear though, we will just use any of the following social networking plugins.
WordPress Social Networking Plugins
This section will help you to choose the perfect social networking plugin for your site. Let’s start with the popular…
In a nutshell, the BuddyPress plugin “…helps you run any kind of social network on your WordPress, with member profiles, activity streams, user groups, messaging and more.” It’s 100% free, so yeah, get ready to have fun without shelling out a coin.
With over 100K+ active installs and a great user rating of 4.0/5.0, BuddyPress is quite the social networking engine you need. The plugin is easy to integrate, but if you’re ever stuck, feel free to take advantage of the huge BuddyPress community ready to support you.
It’s truly “a social network in a box”, this plugin, with all the features you need to create your specific type of network. And if that’s not enough, you have a wide range of extensions at your disposal to turn your social network whichever way you desire.
If you’d love to take the road less traveled, you can build your WordPress social network just the way you envision it thanks to the BuddyPress Theme Development eBook available via BuddyPress.org.
Setting up BuddyPress is piece of cake. Configuring the options and customizing your social network is equally easy. The real kicker is getting people interested in your network, but worry not, how to get more traffic to your site should help you out.
That aside, login to your WordPress admin area, and navigate to Plugins -> Add New. On the next screen, look up “BuddyPress” using the search field, and hit the Install Now button. Then just activate BuddyPress once installed.
Minor BuddyPress Configurations
Navigate to Settings -> Permalinks and set the option to Post name. Navigate to Settings -> BuddyPress to configure your options as you deem fit. Additionally, feel free to activate all the modules you need on this page. Navigate to Appearance -> Menus to create menus. To enrich your network, you can access more BuddyPress widgets by navigating to Appearance -> Widgets.
From this point, you should be able to build your social network without a problem. Every feature you might need is available in the form of a plugin, add on or extension so don’t hesitate checking online when stuck or in need. Start your search on the BuddyPress plugin repository and the forums.
Quite the interesting social networking plugin for WordPress this is. HaloSocial is not only a thing of beauty, but also proof enough WordPress lovers are ready to go to great lengths to stretch the platform beyond the remits of imagination. What can I say? HaloSocial is simply in a class of it’s own you have to see it to believe.
From amazing home timelines, profiles, members, events, groups, page categories and classified ads among other features, HaloSocial gives you the power you need to build a social network out of your dreams. And just like Facebook, a hover card with the user’s basic info appears when you mouse over a profile picture:
There’s a great support forum to help you out whenever you’re stuck. Other than that, HaloSocial offers three pricing packages: a free Starter pack with basic features, a $99 Professional package with some extra features, and a $149 Agency package with a full range of features. Be wise and choose the package that suits your business best.
Then we have Peepso, a state of the art and modern social networking plugin that the developers released to compete with BuddyPress. Right of the bat, Peepso features a clean and contemporary design that standouts even without using a specialized theme.
Once you install this social networking plugin, it adds a new menu item “Peepso” to your WordPress admin menu. It’s via this new menu item that you configure your social network without breaking a sweat.
By default, Peepso creates six pages namely Home, Activity, Members, User Profile, Recover Password and Site Registration. On top of that, Peepso comes with an intuitive dashboard and a couple of sweet features that make the plugin worth checking out.
Peepso is lightweight, has a rating of 4.4/5.o, and with all the features at your disposal, you can build a social network right inside your WordPress site within seconds. The company offers a premium plan with more features, so don’t feel held back by the somewhat limited features on the free version.
WP Symposium Pro Social Network Plugin
Last but not least, we have WP Symposium Pro Social Network Plugin, which ships with a cool rating of 4.4/5.0. According to their WordPress.org page, WP Symposium is “…the ultimate social network plugin for WordPress.” How true is this?
Features include activity walls, profiles, email alerts, forums, shortcodes, maps, friend connections, chat, profile security, image/video attachments, galleries, and a notification bar just to keep this list short. The plugin ships with extensive documentation and videos to help you set up easily and quickly. You really won’t need the docs since WP Symposium is easy to install, set up and use.
After installing, just navigate to WPS Pro -> Setup on your WordPress admin menu to configure your social network. Additionally, this social network plugin is compatible with most WordPress themes and plugins, is easy to customize and supports multiple languages.
My choice: Of the four plugins outlined above, I would go with BuddyPress or Peepso even though the latter requires some financial investment to unlock some features. BuddyPress, on the other hand, comes with a great deal of free plugins, which is a great plus. My third and fourth choices would be WP Symposium and HaloSocial in that order. There’s another plugin, known as WP Mingle, but the authors haven’t updated it in more than two years so I wouldn’t touch that.
Now that we have the plugins we need to power our social network, how about we look at a few WordPress themes made specifically for social networks. Cool? Okay, let’s do this.
Mingle – Multi-Purpose WordPress Theme
If you’re creating your social network using BuddyPress, you need to have Mingle by your side for its features and immense aesthetic value. Brought to you by Parallelus, an elite author, Mingle is specially made for the BuddyPress platform on top of shipping with a long list of awesome features.
You get everything from an incredibly flexible drag and drop layout builder, contact form builder, sidebar generator, clean HTML5 + CSS3, SEO-friendly code, blogs, portfolio, slideshows and shortcodes among other features. Mingle has over 5k happy customers, a buyer rating of 4.31/5.00 and costs just $64 bucks. It’s worth every dime.
Salutation Responsive WordPress + BuddyPress Theme
After checking out Salutation, we can safely say Parallelus has a good sense of design where social networking WordPress themes are concerned. For starters, Salutation is 100% responsive meaning your social network will look great and perform well on various devices despite of screen size.
Additionally, Salutation comes with cool features such as Slider Revolution, drag and drop layout manager, unlimited color choices, full localization support, popup login form, easily customizable, blogs, widgets, an intuitive admin area, sidebar generator, portfolios, all BuddyPress features and shortcodes among others.
Salutation is compatible with BuddyPress 1.5 and above, WordPress 4.3+ and major browsers. It has a buyer rating of 4.50/5.00 and sells at $64 bucks. Try out the demo for a feel of this beauty.
Woffice – Intranet/Extranet WordPress Theme
Few theme authors get it right when they set out to create niche-specific WordPress themes. But not 2Fwebd, the power elite author behind Woffice, a social networking WordPress theme out of this world.
There are so many great things going on for this theme you’ll instantly fall in love. From its multipurpose capabilities, a wide range of features, high standards of coding, regular updates and great support to mention a few. You can use Woffice to create social networks, intranets, extranets or communities for schools, your workplace, businesses and government agencies among others.
Features include the complete BuddyPress network, Wiki, files manager, Font Awesome icons, chat and messaging, forums, Google fonts, responsive design, demo content, documentation, video tutorials, calendar, shortcodes, bbPress, WMPL support, Trello integration, breadcrumbs, clean code, unlimited sidebars, custom widgets, custom login page and e-commerce among others.
Woffice has an impressive buyer rating of 4.88/5.00 and costs $64 bucks only. This theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and all modern browsers.
Serpent – Responsive Social Network Theme
What a name for a theme! Is it as sleek, flexible and agile as the reptile it’s named after? With more features than you’ll probably ever need, Serpent is a one of a kind WordPress theme designed to take your website to the next level. This is the kind of theme you want to have from the word go; you simply can’t go wrong with this baby.
What features can you expect? Cosmothemes – the elite author behind Serpent – presents features such as a responsive layout, Facebook-style like button on posts, lightbox login and registration, keyboard navigation, front-end post submission, user profiles, tooltip helpers, Facebook comments, slideshows, social media icons, a powerful admin area, sidebars, widgets and drop-down menus among others.
Serpent has a buyer rating of 4.43/5.00 and for $49 bucks only, you can get this beauty working for you day and night. The price includes future updates and 6-month support as well.
UnitedCommunity – BuddyPress Theme
Color, warmth and energy is the way of UnitedCommunity, a feature-rich WordPress social network theme by Diabolique, a respectable elite author. First published on 2nd September, 2015, UnitedCommunity is a relatively new theme (at the time of writing) that packs quite a punch.
Notable features include an eye catching , unique and responsive design, over 40 inner pages, live chat, widget-ready frontpage, easy to install and setup, WooCommerce compatible, custom widgets, popup notifications, WPML ready, Google fonts, drop-down menus, Contact Form 7 and jQuery Masonry blog among others. You can get UnitedCommunity for $64 bucks only.
Klein – A Nitty Gritty Community Theme
If you’re looking for the perfect WordPress theme for your social network, look no further; Klein has your back covered. Give your users the ultimate social networking treatment with a wide range of features that promise one and only one thing; great user experience.
Your users can send unlimited messages, share events, add connections, discuss ideas in forums, and create beautiful user profiles. You can take advantage of Klein’s WooCommerce capability to sell products to members of your network. Other than the ecommerce platform, Klein supports WordPress 4.4, bbPress and BuddyPress giving you all the power you desire to transform your WordPress site into a revered social network.
Other features include Visual Composer Page Builder, custom colors, Revolution Slider, WPML-ready, responsive design, intuitive admin panel, SEO-ready code, 6 different headers + layouts, social media sign in, 1000+ font icons, and notifications just to mention a few. Klein is by dunhakdis, an elite author, has a buyer rating of 4.55/5.00 and costs $59 bucks only.
Creating a powerful social network using WordPress isn’t all about choosing a plugin and theme. You need to keep things like WordPress hosting and website promotion in mind. All the same, feel free to play around with the plugins we just shared to get a hang of how each works, but then only settle for one that satisfies your desires.
Creating a social network with WordPress isn’t challenging as we’ve seen here today. All you need is a great plan, a social networking plugin and a compatible theme. Remember, you can pick any theme and customize it to your tastes, but social networking themes save you time while offering you more options.
Have questions? Suggestions perhaps? Did we leave out something? Please share with us in the comments. Cheers to your success!