WordPress the most popular blogging platform and the most installed CMS, by far. According to W3Tech survey - WordPress is used by 21.4% of all the websites, followed by Joomla and Drupal.
Many web developers and bloggers (of course), know that WordPress is very flexible and powerful platform that is going beyond blogging. Practically WordPress is suitable for any kind of web project starting with blog and going through e-commerce, membership websites, applications and even social networks.
This article is a brief overview of possibilities to build social network with WordPress. By any means this is not a tutorial, WordPress plug-in review or plug-in recommendation. I will just list the option and share tips regarding best practices to build social network with WordPress.
Plug-ins are not listed in any particular order, but let's start with the oldest one. New to WordPress, learn more about WordPress maintenance services.
BuddyPress is probably the most popular free plug-in that can easily turn your WordPress blog into social network. BuddyPress offer all necessary features that every full-fledged social network needs like:
User Profiles (extended)
Plug-in as it is promoted work out of the box, though I doubt that the core functionality will satisfy anybody. Important thing to know is that BuddyPress works with own set of plug-ins that are specially built for BuddyPress. You might also look at our comprehensive BuddyPress review.
WP Symposium social network plugin is also very popular, good alternative of BuddyPress premium plug-in, there are several membership (paid) options. The core functions of WP Symposium can be used for free, though similar to BuddyPress core functionality isn't exactly enough to create momentum and engagement at your social network. To be honest, WP Symposium is relatively cheap compared to components, plugins or modules for other popular CMS that can do the same job. Here is our WP Symposium review.
GRA4 Social Network
GRA4 Social Network is brand new plug-in that is still in beta testing stage, though this one really works out of the box and my first impression during the test was that I am using Facebook. Well, immediately after that I had troubles with few templates that I was using, but for sure, if development of GRA4 continue in the same direction and if it is still free, definitely worth trying.
Very similar to BuddyPress and actually quite popular. Though even it says in official description that WP Mingle is social network plug-in, practically it isn't. There is huge difference between social network and social community (forum). However, WP Mingle is great forum plug-in.
Build Your Own Social Network Tips
Before you try anything, you should always backup your blog. Know that untested backup is as good as ashtray on a motorbike.
In general, WordPress can be turned into social network, though there are many drawbacks. All plug-ins listed above are usually behind WordPress development, this means that you should be very careful updating the main core.
Additionally all above listed “competitors” work with their own plug-ins that also might be behind, might be discontinue or can easily crash your website (especially some BuddyPress plug-ins), you might need special theme, your favorite plugin might also not work.
WordPress leave a lot of footprints behind and social network based on WordPress most likely will be spammed a lot.
Take The Maximum of Your Blog and Social Network
An easy way to bypass all drawbacks listed above is simply to install 2nd WordPress instance in the same database, but with different prefix and replace user tables (not recommended for inexperienced web developers). This procedure can be done easily for any kind of project. Just be sure that theme is the same or look very similar, so you can blend both installations.
Basically none of the above plug-ins have higher that WordPress server requirements, but this depends on the number of users and traffic. A reasonable mid-level VPS for middle-of-the-road social network with be more than reasonable. You might want to check the optimal web server configuration, that is suitable for social networks or heavy websites.
Have you every thought to build your own social network?
Originally this post was for another blog, but due to inactivity of blog owner, I've decided to publish it at WebmaisterPro. Very soon we will review other possibilities of building your own social network based on other popular CMS.