How to Turn Your WordPress Blog Into a Social Network

social media toolsWant to create your own social network? Are you familiar with WordPress? From the makers of WordPress comes BuddyPress, a tool that will enable you to make your own social network.

While major social networks offer tremendous reach and millions of users, sometimes that scope can actually be distracting for certain interest groups that have a more narrow focus. BuddyPress is a great solution for groups that want to set up their own social network to concentrate interactions around a shared cause.

BuddyPress allows users the opportunity to create a social network with specific membership and publishing rules. These features make the BuddyPress platform useful for all sorts of organizations and groups.

buddy pressOn a technical level, BuddyPress is a set of features combined into a plugin that turns any WordPress blog into a private social network, or “Social networking in a box,” as the tagline goes. BuddyPress allows the same user-friendly publishing and drag-and-drop functionality that WordPress users know well.

BuddyPress, like WordPress, is free to download and install, and it boasts a robust community of developers who add features to the offering on a regular basis. The site also has an in-depth “codex” that contains documentation for how to install the plugin and extend it.

#1: Potential Uses

Companies can struggle to share information about projects and campaigns effectively through emails and intranets. A BuddyPress blog can allow effective commentary on company information, and you can password-protect the data so it’s only accessible to team members. The ability to protect data while also allowing social features like threaded posts, comments, and status updates provides the collaborative power of social networks along with the protection of a private network.

Other private network options like Ning and Dolphin are more expensive than the hosting costs associated with BuddyPress. Just be sure to have adequate security on your BuddyPress installation just as you would on your WordPress blog to avoid any data breaches.

CUNY demonstrates how BuddyPress can be used to foster professional communication, using groups and individual blogs to share ideas and organize activity.

#2: Group Collaboration

Often when sharing information about an event or coordinating activities, crucial details can either get lost in emails, or only shared with a portion of the group. BuddyPress allows the group to dedicate a space for information about an event or mission, which can be useful for collaboration, especially if all team members aren’t in the same location or have busy schedules. The ability to put certain information behind administrative access can be really useful for events where it’s necessary for leadership and participants to see different information.

#3: Collecting Topical Information of Interest

tasty kitchen

Icon from the TastyKitchen BuddyPress community inviting people to join the network

As Tasty Kitchen demonstrates, BuddyPress is a great way to add social functionality to a shared set of interests. Instead of creating yet another food blog and making users interact only through comments and external sharing of the content on social networks, Tasty Kitchen has used WordPress to make its own social network around the main content repository.

  • Users submit recipes that the community can then review and comment on.
  • Users can also build profiles where they list their favorite recipes and information about their cooking style.

You can use BuddyPress to establish a similar community around a topic of your interest.

Potential Drawbacks to BuddyPress

  • Cost of Installation – While BuddyPress is free to download, you’ll need to host the program yourself. Hosting costs are very minimal but it is an expense to consider compared to creating a group on a public social network such as Facebook.
  • Gaining Reach – Facebook and Twitter have millions of users, so gaining a following for your community is easier through viral sharing and promotion. To publicize your BuddyPress community, you’ll need to integrate with these networks and others to push traffic to it. Consider if that effort might yield more results if the traffic was staying on the public networks before beginning a BuddyPress community.
  • Privacy – While the features of BuddyPress are useful and plentiful, many companies will have reservations about using BuddyPress due to concerns over sharing confidential information. Some of these concerns can be offset by paying for stronger security from the hosting provider, but that increases the cost of the installation.

Overall, BuddyPress is very feature-rich and worth a shot if you’ve got collaboration needs or an interest that hasn’t been well-served by the public social networks. Though there are drawbacks to using BuddyPress, in sum, it’s a very useful, inexpensive solution that can provide some clear benefits to your organization.

Have you tried BuddyPress? What are the positives or drawbacks? Let us know your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Peter Wylie

Peter Wylie is lead researcher for Three Ships Media, an emerging media marketing company that specializes in using blogs and social networks to connect clients with target customers online. Other posts by »




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  • DimensionM

    Great review. Regarding the privacy aspect, it’s really no different than hosting ANY site. Always a potential for a security breach with ANY hosted software – the fault lies with the host sometimes even. But in reality BuddyPress is as secure as WordPress which on it’s own is pretty secure.

    Regarding other BuddyPress privacy subjects, you might want to check up on bp-privacy.com which will soon address some potential privacy concerns for some people.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for your comment DimensionM

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Dimension,

    Thanks very much for the clarification, that’s very helpful. The link to the privacy page will be really useful to anyone considering building a BuddyPress community.

    Thanks for contributing!

    Peter

  • danielhpavey

    Thanks for this post.

    I’d forgotten about Buddypress!

    I’m looking at building a social network kind of site, and would love to hear about peoples experiences with it…?

  • Tanya

    I just installed Buddypress and am excited about using it. I am a bit overwhelmed by figuring out how to customize all the options. Does anyone know of a good resource guide?

  • http://mai.do/ Gabriele Maidecchi

    While I currently have no personal use for a “private social network” within my corporate blog, I can very well see the potentials of it and I am gonna bookmark this article on Delicious to keep track on it, should I have a future use. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sallie Goetsch

    I’m building a BuddyPress site for a client right now, and it’s a bit of a challenge to configure to specifications, and it doesn’t have the ease of use of something like Ning. On the other hand, it is under your control, and as long as you have an expert to set it up for you, you don’t have to worry about where your members’ data is going, or about depending on a third party for your community’s existence. And the developer community and options for BuddyPress are growing, so that it should continue to get both easier to use and more sophisticated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Daniel,

    The BuddyPress site has some great use cases and how people are implementing BuddyPress for different needs. I would check that out and see if you can connect with one of them or people in the BuddyPress forums, which are quite active.

    Thanks for commenting,
    Peter

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Tanya,

    As I mentioned to Daniel, check out the BuddyPress forums. They have good user guides and questions asked by users about problems usually get answered pretty quickly.

    Hope that helps, and thanks for commenting,

    Peter

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Gabriele,

    No problem. Maybe some of the collaborative features may prove useful as an addition to your corporate blog at some point.

    Thanks for bookmarking the article!

    Peter

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Sallie,

    Thanks for the great commentary on using BuddyPress! The control aspect is one of the main selling points in my opinion, but as I noted, set up does require some knowledge and expertise, which can be daunting for those with no technical ability in this area.

    Thanks for commenting,

    Peter

  • DimensionM

    BuddyPress can more than a private social network. Check out a recent site I built with it – peerbackers.com. It’s a crowdsource funding site that uses BuddyPress groups as ventures/projects.

  • http://be.net/williamroth William Roth

    Thanks for the article! I am looking into buddypress for a project I am working on. Would buddypress allow users to upload photos to posts?

  • silktide

    Thanks for letting us know. What worries me about this idea though is what happens if the community of developers disappears, you’re stuck with a site and data contained within something which might not be portable.
    How long has this been around so far?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    William,

    I did a little quick research, and apparently there is a plugin called bp-group documents that allows this functionality. I haven’t used this plugin myself, so I’m hesitant to call it a fix, but it’s a good place to start.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Peter

  • Sallie Goetsch

    Oh, and another point: you can use BuddyPress with either a single or a multi-site installation of WordPress, but there are some features that don’t work without multi-site. (Group blogs, for instance, or member blogs, for that matter.) Most inexpensive shared hosting accounts do NOT permit you to activate multi-site in WordPress–or, if you try, it won’t work, because they don’t provide the resources. So be sure you have the right kind of hosting account before embarking on this venture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    For over a year, and the developer community seems quite committed. You raise a good point about long-term viability, and that’s always a concern. I haven’t seen any clear portability solutions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the community has developed them and I’m ignorant to them.
    Thanks for the comment!
    Peter

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    I first heard from the Founder of BuddyPress back at Word Camp Whistler in 2009 when he was just getting started, I too had forgotten about it so thanks for the reminder and the review.

    Natalie

  • Sallie Goetsch

    There are a couple of different plugins aimed at letting users upload photos. I’m still in the test phase, so can’t give you a definitive recommendation; ask me in a couple of weeks. Note that you shouldn’t use the group documents plugin and the forum documents plugin together: they conflict.

  • Sallie Goetsch

    BuddyPress has been around for a few years and is growing rapidly, though the developer community is smaller than that for WordPress itself. All data is stored in a MySQL database and can be exported that way. (And a lot of the data can be exported via the usual WordPress export function; I’m not sure how far that includes BuddyPress specific material.) In general, it’s easier to get your data out of WordPress than out of proprietary social networks, even though Facebook has now made it possible to download profiles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    No problem, Natalie. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Peter

  • http://twitter.com/jnpalisoc Jennifer Palisoc

    Thanks for this article! I had vaguely heard about possible plug-ins to create a social network on WordPress but I haven’t looked into it yet. The company I’m interning with is considering doing this in the future so this is a great help to me.

  • Guest

    Thanks – Awesome post, might be a stupid question but is there an equivalent for Blogger?

  • http://www.heartspoken.com/ Elizabeth H. Cottrell

    Excellent discussion…this is exactly the kind of great content I have come to rely on from SME to keep me abreast of options in the world of online social media. Even when I don’t have an immediate use for some particular article’s content, I appreciate getting an overview of the trends and possibilities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Elizabeth,

    Thanks very much for the kind words,

    Peter

  • http://twitter.com/socialrussia SocialRussia

    We love the idea! We just installed BuddyPress on Social Russia, take a quick look http://www.socialrussia.com

  • http://www.brosix.com/ Brosix

    This is cool! Might be a good alternative to Ning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Jennifer,

    Glad you found this useful!

    Peter

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    I am not sure. Does anyone know?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Thanks for sharing a good example of a BuddyPress installation.

    Peter

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2704322 Peter Wylie

    Brosix,

    I think so too, especially as Ning has transitioned to a paid model.

    Thanks for the comment,

    Peter

  • http://www.livyahyarnblog.com sriga

    thanks Peter this is the first time that I have heard of Buddypress.

  • Rafael

    Sallie,

    Thanks for your input. What would you consider the “right” resources?

  • Rafael

    Nicely done DimensionM.

  • Rafael

    Yes, thank you. Ditto on Buddypress. As an aside, I think that this may have good legs if WordPress owns it now. Dvelopers should not be walking away due to the WordPress connection.

    Many thanks Peter!

  • Sallie Goetsch

    Blogger is a hosted service. Only. So, no. Though if Google comes out with a social network, it could well integrate Blogger.

  • Sallie Goetsch

    Some hosts will recommend you use VPS, but shared hosting is possible. However, a Multi-site installation requires a full 256 MB of memory, while a single install can get by on 64. I’m not an expert on the way these things work, but a multi-site installation with 11 blogs requires more server resources than 11 separate installations of WordPress. Technical requirements for WP installs generally are here: http://codex.wordpress.org/User:Hakre/Technical_Installation and two places you can look to for hosting a BuddyPress site are pSek (WPMU hosting) and WPhost.com.

  • http://twitter.com/IM_Riches E. Ric Schwager

    Could this be used to setup a paid membership site? I’d like to host something like, say, a series of videos on how to use WordPress (or something else), and charge a monthly fee to get access to them.

  • LindyK

    As of this date, I’m not totally impressed mainly because there are few templates it works with. I believe BuddyPress implies it works with Thesis but really doesn’t, and also won’t work with Headway – two of my fave templates. A very big step in the right direction, though. Also, it seems as if the interface is rather drab – but it may have options that I am not aware of.

  • http://illuminea.com Miriam Schwab

    Sallie, multisite WordPress has been phased out since it has been integrated into regular WordPress. So there’s no need to install multisite WordPress anymore – you just install regular WordPress, and activate the multisite functions. More info here: http://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-tutorials/how-to-enable-multi-site-option-in-wordpress-3-0/

  • http://www.corporatephotographylondon.com/ Corporate Photographer

    If you have your own server and install BuddyPress on a wordpress blog will there be any extra costs? Thanks Grant

  • silktide

    Thanks for the reply guys, this is all sounding quite positive about BuddyPress!

  • SimonNZ

    I echo Lindyk’s comments. I also am a raving fan of Thesis and even though it says you can mod the theme to cope it never really strutted its stuff so we went back to the standard template. We are playing with BP to set up a social network for a professional industry that haven’t caught the FaceBook bug yet..

  • http://www.mazakaro.com Rahul @ MazaKaro

    The link to the privacy page will be really useful to anyone. Great review !! thanX

  • http://www.yourdigitalspace.com/ Swamykant

    Good Alternative for NING. Ned to try this

  • http://colleenwalshfong.wordpress.com/ Colleen

    Very helpful and worthy of consideration.

  • http://www.ultracleancarpetclean.com Kelvin

    Great conversation in here. I’m also thinking of adding buddypress to our business networking site. I will try and post here about my findings.

  • Bahadur

    Nice blog post – though in order to turn it into a social networking site, you do need to make sure that your theme is highly customizable and adaptable to various plugins that can be installed and used. Some of them are very extensive and complicated to code as well. There is a website design company http://www.9thsphere.com/home.html that creates custom blog theme (for WordPress to be exact) themes as well and you can look them up on WordPress’ free themes section here href=”http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/profile/9thsphere

  • Amitava Das

    aaaa

  • http://www.blazenailpolish.com/ color change nail polish

    As a central place to publish all of your original content, a blog can give you a meaningful entry into the social media stream. When you’re consistently publishing high-quality, informative articles to your blog, you can use social media as a platform for growing the visibility of your business. 

  • http://theplasticsurgerychannel.com/ Pamela S.Chuck

    I am really enjoying the theme/design of your web site. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility problems? A handful of my blog readers have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this issue?

  • Ashutosh Nigam

    very nice post…..thanks for sharing

  • Richard Dickinson

    I have been trying BuddyPress on my WP site for over 6 months now and am still struggling to work with it.
    I wanted to use BP mainly for a site forum but I still do not have this running as I want/smoothly!
    Problems I have encountered include: making my WP theme BP compatible / many users seem to be sploggers & dealing with this / bbPress plugin+BuddyPress relationship / running a private group  and getting help to overcome these BP issues is tough!
    There seem to be lots of possibilities for a social media site with BP but for me the difficulty of implementing  these and getting even a simple forum running with BP on my site are big!

  • akshat oswal

    Has anyone tried using BuddyPress Media plugin? It allows to upload photos and videos and what not.. I have tried it on my network but have not tested it with high traffic. this is the link for the plugin http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/buddypress-media/

  • akshat oswal

    No installing Buddypress wont cost you anything extra provided you have sufficient space in your hosting! 

  • Jonathan Lederman

    Thank you for this great tool and its uses. May you have much success in all that you do.









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