Create your own social network with BuddyPress and the Customizr WordPress theme

What is BuddyPress?

If you have a niche WordPress site with a community of users and you want to add social media features to your site, then BuddyPress is the way to go. Social networks provide a flow of communication amongst its members, thus forming a community around the website. This might be useful for certain sites, especially if you have a site on a niche topic.

BuddyPress plugin is a suite of components that helps you to run a social network complete with member profiles, activity streams, user groups, messaging and more. It helps you set up a private social network. Some of the key features of BuddyPress are:

  • Ease of integration
  • Ease of use
  • Extensibility
  • Powerful yet simple
  • Membership profiles
  • Connections
  • Groups
  • Private messaging

Who uses it?

The BuddyPress plugin is currently active on more than 100K sites on the planet ! (source :  wordpress.org )

  • Do you want more proof that BuddyPress is awesome and powers several websites? Head to BPinspire to see some of the most inspiring BuddyPress sites. Check them out till you are convinced!

Installation

Installation is simple and very similar to any other plugin. From the dashboard, click on Plugins> Add New. Type BuddyPress in the search box and from the results click on Install Now next to the BuddyPress plugin.

You will see a welcome screen as below.

Settings

Configuration of BuddyPress involves, firstly choosing the components that you want to include, then assigning components to pages and lastly customizing the settings of each component.

After installation, go to Settings > BuddyPress (you can also do these from the Welcome Screen that shows up after installation) from the WordPress admin dashboard. In the Components tab, you can view the components installed by deafult. Here you can choose the components that you want to use. The already selected Extended Profiles and Account Settings apart, you can choose other components.

Let us take a look at the main components and their functionality.

BuddyPress Core & Community Members

These are two components which are not optional. As the name says, it is the core BuddyPress functionality and Membership functionality which is integral to any social network.

Users in WordPress become Members in BuddyPress. Members are part of the social network, they can befriend other members, message each other (if set up), post activity on their activity stream, follow other members' activity feeds and participate in group discussions.

A Members page gets added automatically. You can view it at yoursiteurl/members/.

Account Settings

This component allows a user to edit his/her Account Settings directly from his/her profile. If this is included, when a logged-in user hovers above his profile picture, he gets to see more details like Notifications, Activity and Groups.

Extended profiles

Apart from the basic user profile that WordPress offers, BuddyPress allows the administrator to add new fields into the user registration process through the Extended Profiles Component. These fields are fully editable by the members.

A logged-in user can click on Profile from the dashboard and change his/her profile details. Alternately, on hovering on the profile image on the top right corner, the dropdown shows an Edit Profile link. The member can click on this to edit his/her profile, change profile photo and cover image.

Activity Streams

If you have chosen this component, activity streams are enabled for all members. Global, group-related and personal activities can be seen on the feed. Members can directly post updates to their activity streams. Threaded commenting is enabled on posts, favoriting of posts is possible and you can tag/mention another member using @ followed by the other member's username. Members can follow other members' activity streams by email notification or RSS.

You can view the activities at the activity page yoursiteurl/activity/.

Each group has its own activity stream and members of a group can view the group's activity stream.

For the administrator, the admin dashboard has an item Activity which shows all activities on the site by various members.

The activities can be filtered by type for view.

User Groups

Users can form groups with specific interests. Creating multiple groups allows to have focussed groups communicating on a specific topic/interest. In addition, some conversations can be kept private. For instance, a school's site can have groups for each grade. You can view your groups at yoursiteurl/groups/.

For the administrator, there is a Groups item on the admin dashboard. Clicking on it gives the Groups management screen from where the administrator can add new groups. The groups may be of three types - Public/Private/Hidden.

You can also add Members, Groups and Activity Pages to your Menu from the admin dashboard, by clicking on Appearance > Menus.

Friend Connections

This component allows members to connect with each other. A friends list is available and friendship requests can be viewed.

Notifications

This component enables members to receive notifications of current activities in the way that they choose.

Private Messaging

Members can send private/direct messages if this component is included.

Site Tracking

This component helps track all activities of your site.

That should give you an overview of the main components. This should help you decide on what components you need for your site.

The next tab is Pages which shows the pages created for the chosen components. Create pages where new users can register and activate their accounts.

For this to work, go to Settings > General and check against Anyone can register to allow new users to register on your site.

For registration and activation, you need to create new pages by clicking on Pages > Add New from the admin dashboard. You can create these two pages with some meaningful names like Register and Activate. On doing this, you will see these pages on the above screen which you can choose for Registration and Activation respectively. Click on Save Settings and BuddyPress takes care of the rest.

The last tab is Settings. Here, there are some settings for what registered users and logged-in users can or cannot do. There are four sections.

  • Main Settings
  • Profile Settings
  • Groups Settings
  • Activity Settings

You can revisit this later when you have set up all the components and make decisions.

Click on Save Settings.

Widgets

Apart from the Pages that are added/created, Widgets also get automatically added depending on the components installed. Go to Appearance > Widgets from the admin dashboard. The widgets available are:

  • BuddyPress Friends
  • BuddyPress Groups
  • BuddyPress Log In
  • BuddyPress Members
  • BuddyPress Recently Active Members
  • BuddyPress Sitewide Notices
  • BuddyPress Who's Online

You can use these to spruce up the appearance of your site and for ease of viewing activity.

Test a BuddyPress installation with Dummy Content

On installation, if you want test data to test if your BuddyPress installation is working fine, you can install another plugin BuddyPress Default Data for this purpose.

Installation

Installation is the usual procedure. From the admin dashboard, click on Plugins > Add New. Search for the plugin and install it. Finally, activate it.

Importing test data

After installation and activation, click on Tools > BP Default Data from the admin dashboard. You will see a screen like this.

First import users data by checking against the user details and clicking on Import Selected Data. The options selected will depend on the components installed.

Then import groups data by checking against the group details and clicking on Import Selected Data.

After checking all the components and their functionality, return to this screen and click on Clear BuddyPress Data to remove this test data.

Extending the BuddyPress features

BuddyPress can be extended upon using several plugins available. Some of the most popular ones are listed here.

BuddyPress Groupblog

BuddyPress Groupblog plugin can be used to allow a single blog to be created and used with each group.

BuddyPress Activity Plus

BuddyPress Activity Plus plugin allows you to embed media - images and video into your activity stream.

BuddyPress Docs

BuddyPress Docs plugin allows collaborative work spaces where documents can be shared and edited by members of a group or a set of users.

bbPress

BuddyPress uses a bbPress plugin for bbPress forums.

So, are you ready to extend your WordPress site into a community-based social network? Do it and see your traffic explode!

Doc created by: Menaka S.