The Buddy System: Going Social with Your WordPress Site
The best WordPress bloggers, site owners and administrators know that one of the keys to having a fantastic and wildly successful web page is to integrate everything you post and promote with some sort of social media component.
Of course, the problem many people run into when looking at a social media program or plugin is, which one to pick? Indeed, there are dozens available that have all sorts of different capabilities. Some automatically duplicate your blog posts on your Facebook page. Others connect you directly to a Twitter field. Still others allow back and forth dialogues between your site’s users and frequent visitors and those who follow you on various social networking sites.
But before you run out and grab a social media plugin, first check out BuddyPress, a sister program to WordPress. As an out-of-the-box social networking website that helps you create online communities, teams and groups, BuddyPress even comes with an admin area similar to WordPress’ that allows users to manage the site in conjunction with (or “on top of”) their WP site. And best of all, the software package is free and easy to install, configure and run, and it has the ability to let you choose which features you’d like to use and which you don’t need, automatically adapting and showing only the pages, buttons and menu items you’ve enabled.
With BuddyPress you can build member profiles, create user groups and activity streams and set up notification alerts and dedicated messaging. All these capabilities make BuddyPress ideal as an internal communication network for your company or as a social network for specific interest groups that can include forums and more.
Best of all, BuddyPress comes with some truly inspired themes to choose from, some free and some available at a fairly low price. And having the extensive theme options allows you to pick one that melds nicely with your existing WordPress theme, creating a seamless user experience that will get your site noticed.
Here are a handful of great BuddyPress themes to investigate if you plan on utilizing the plugin.
- If your site takes the style of a magazine or news outlet, check out Cool Stuff. With a modern homepage that utilizes a two-column layout, it also contains sections for your portfolio as well as places to list events, members and more. Feature rich, it allows you to set up social sharing as well as a contact form and integration with Google Maps.
- Noozbeat is also a modern-looking magazine theme, but it offers unlimited color choices, several layouts for categories and even dedicated spots for advertising. Social networking on Twitter and Instagram is controlled via custom widgets, and you can control most elements of the design including the background and the placement of your logo.
- If your site is content rich, consider Sufia as a theme option. It includes very cool features such as a custom login form and avatars for your users that appear in the menu bar as well as in submitted posts and the authors list section. Designed with nearly 30 custom widgets, you create your own unique layout with drag-and-drop ease, and the theme also comes with 10 different homepages and custom panels and header styles.
Keep in mind that, if you decide to install BuddyPress on your site, you’ll need a self-hosted WordPress.org site to use it. So be sure to check into a WordPress hosting company before you make any decisions: Bluehost is a popular option with many WordPress users.