How to Turn Your WordPress Site Into a Social Network

How to Turn Your WordPress Site Into a Social Network

Did you know that you can turn your WordPress site into a social network? A WordPress social network allows users to sign up, connect with each other, post messages, and more. In this article, we will show you how to turn your WordPress site into a social network.

Create a Social Network with BuddyPress

Starting your WordPress Powered Social Network

WordPress is the most easy to use platform to build your own social network using the free BuddyPress plugin. It is super flexible and integrates beautifully with any kind of WordPress website.

You’ll need a self-hosted WordPress.org website to start using BuddyPress.

If you don’t have a website yet, then follow the instructions in our how to make a website guide, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

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 setup with your existing WordPress site

Setting up Your WordPress Social Network Using BuddyPress

First thing you need to do is install and activate the BuddyPress plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation you need to visit Settings » BuddyPress page to configure plugin settings.

BuddyPress Settings

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.

Setting up pages

If you don’t see the option to select registration and activation pages, then you need to enable user registration on your WordPress site.

Now, you will need to switch to the ‘Options’ tab.

BuddyPress options

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.

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.

Head over to Appearance » Menus page. Select the BuddyPress pages from the left column and click on add to menu button.

BuddyPress navigation

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.

BuddyPress links

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.

Activity 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.

If your theme isn’t compatible with BuddyPress, then checkout our list of the best WordPress themes for BuddyPress.

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.

Managing user activity in BuddyPress

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.

Managing user accounts

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.

Manage new signups

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.

Add new group

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.

Creating a new group in BuddyPress

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.

Group privacy settings

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.

Profile photo for the group

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.

Invite users to join group

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.

Groups directory

Clicking on a group name will show the group’s page where users can join a group, post updates, and follow group activity.

Group page

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.

Edit email notifications in BuddyPress

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.

Editing email notifications

Lastly, you can also use the email customizer to modify the email colors, header, and footer areas.

Customize emails

Troubleshooting BuddyPress

Many of the issues you’ll come across with BuddyPress will be similar to WordPress issues. Make sure you check our list of common WordPress errors to see if it’s listed there.

If your users are unable to receive email notifications, then follow the instructions in our guide on how to fix WordPress not sending email issue.

For all other issues, check out our WordPress troubleshooting guide to understand what’s causing it, and how to find a solution.

That’s all for now.

We hope this article helped you turn your WordPress site into a social network using BuddyPress. You may also want to see our ultimate step by step WordPress security guide for beginners.

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