5 Best WordPress Community Plugins to Grow Your Community Website

WordPress community plugin graphic

No matter what kind of website you’re running, you’re always on the lookout for ways to retain and engage your visitors. And that’s where WordPress community plugins come in.

Quality content can go a long way, but creating a community around your website or business can take this even further. Adding community functionality to your site can be an excellent strategy for growing your business and forming a long-term bond with your users.

Luckily, WordPress makes this easy. With the ever-growing selection of WordPress community plugins on offer, adding community functionality to your site can be seamless.

In this post, you’ll learn what an online community is, what WordPress community plugins you can use to add community functionality to your site, plus how you can make the most out of your new community site.

What is an Online Community?

An online community is a group of people who communicate and interact via various digital tools, whether that’s through a forum, chat, email, or even social networking.

An online community can take several forms and either be entirely free or have a paid membership fee.

Here are some of the most popular formats:

The most important question for you to answer is: what type of community do you want to create?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you build out your community site:

  • What value do you want to provide to your members? Private content, a like-minded community, etc.
  • What’s the purpose of your community? Does it exist online anywhere already?
  • Do you want to create a paid community or make it free forever?
  • How will you generate new members?
  • What type of content will you create for your members?

You must have a definite direction for your community site before you start building and adding features.

Why WordPress is Perfect for Building a Community Website

Right out of the box, WordPress is equipped with features that make it easy to create a community website. For example, you have a built-in post and commenting system, along with a robust CMS.

So the foundation for your community website has been taken care of for you just by using WordPress as your foundation.

Then on top of this, there are certain features you’ll need to create a thriving online community:

  • A way for members to sign up, log in, and create a user profile
  • Ways for you to engage with the community and for your community to engage with each other – through likes, comments, or sharing
  • A way for members to chat privately or send non-public messages

These features aren’t native to WordPress, but there are various WordPress community plugins you can use to add these features to your site.

5 Best WordPress Community Plugins

If you want to create a community website, here are some of the five best WordPress community plugins around!

Table comparing WordPress community plugins

The following WordPress community plugins don’t compete with each other; instead, they integrate with one another and enhance overall functionality. You can pick and choose between the features you need to create the perfect feature set for your community site.With the help of the following plugins, you’ll be able to add nearly every feature you could think of to your community site.

1. Profile Builder Pro

profile builder banner

Profile Builder Pro is a powerful user management tool that lets you create detailed user registration and login forms, plus user profile pages and a member directory. The flexibility of the tool allows you to add registration forms nearly anywhere on your website.

Profile Builder Pro

Create beautiful front-end registration and profile forms with custom fields. Setup member directories, custom redirects, cutomize user emails & more using the all in one user management plugin.

Get the plugin

Profile Builder Pro includes all kinds of advanced modules you can take advantage of when building your community site:

  • Front-end user listing pages
  • Ability to create multiple user registration forms
  • Add map functionality to user profiles
  • Create in-depth user login forms with unlimited custom fields
  • Shortcodes to add profiles or forms wherever you want
  • And much more

You’ll also find a handful of advanced add-ons you can use to extend the functionality of the plugin further:

  • WooCommerce Sync Allows you to manage the WooCommerce Shipping and Billing fields directly in Profile Builder forms and extend WooCommerce checkout page with custom fields added by Profile Builder.
  • Social Connect. Allows your users to utilise social login via platforms like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • MailChimp. It allows you to link MailChimp list fields with Profile Builder Fields for more advanced email forms.
  • bbPress. It allows you to add advanced Profile Builder user profile tools to forum profiles.
  • BuddyPress. It allows you to extend the functionality of BuddyPress user profiles with Profile Builder user fields.

2. BuddyPress

bbpress plugin

BuddyPress is a free, open-source plugin that can help transform your WordPress site into your own social network. This plugin is packed with extensions and features that’ll enable you to create a truly unique social community.

It’s a highly flexible plugin, so you can create a fairly simple community or enable all the features and offer your users multiple communication methods, change color schemes, utilise detailed content management, and more.

Here are some unique features of BuddyPress:

  • Let users send direct messages to each other
  • Create friends lists and add or remove friends
  • Create groups and join groups
  • Answer questions in the forum or create forum threads
  • Sign up for email notifications

Another great thing about BuddyPress is that it has its own great collection of plugins you can use to add even more features to your site.

Here are a few additional plugins you can try out:

  • BuddyBoss Wall. This premium plugin lets users write on each other’s walls, similar to what you can do on Facebook.
  • BuddyPress User Blog. This plugin allows you to give your members the ability to create their own blog with an interface similar to Medium.
  • iFlyChat. This plugin adds live chat functionality to your site, integrates with BuddyPress friends lists, and shows online users.

Be aware that some WordPress themes won’t be compatible with BuddyPress, so you’ll want to use a BuddyPress compatible theme if you are going to use this plugin.

3. BuddyBoss

BuddyBoss is a plugin developed by the same team behind BuddyPress. But, instead of being a free, open-source plugin, it’s paid and closed-source.

The functionality is very similar to BuddyPress (as it uses the same source code), and you’ll need to install BuddyPress for it to work, but BuddyBoss is a more polished experience; it’s bundled with the plugin, theme, and app right from the start.

The most significant difference between the two is the overall ease of use. BuddyBoss is ready to use right out of the box. So, you don’t have to waste time setting up the plugin, customizing it, or installing add-ons.

Instead, you can spend time configuring the features you need and creating a feature-rich social media site without any hang-ups.

Here are a handful of the features offered:

  • Custom member profiles and activity streams with fully editable fields
  • Social groups let members create groups within groups, including private groups
  • Private messages can be sent to individual users or groups
  • Users can to upload photos and create albums (similar to Facebook)
  • Users can create interactive forum discussions and communicate with other members
  • Responsive design across a range of platforms

There are also other advanced features:

  • Sell subscriptions to your members-only content and generate revenue
  • Create and sell online courses with the LearnDash LMS integration
  • Add rankings, points, and rewards when users accomplish specific tasks
  • And much more

4. bbPress

buddypress plugin

bbPress is a free, open-source WordPress plugin you can use to add a forum to your WordPress site. It’s a very lightweight plugin and designed to be as fast as possible.

Many other forum plugins are clunky and can significantly slow down your site, harming the user experience and pushing away visitors from your discussion board. bbPress’s slimline code makes it fast and responsive for the best experience possible, while leaving it open to in-depth customization.

bbPress’s unique features include:

  • Support for over 11 different languages
  • Compatibility with almost every WordPress theme without modifying theme or plugin files
  • Over 100 add-ons and templates to add even more features to your forum

This last point is worth emphasizing – bbPress’s open-source code means the community has been creative and active in creating a wide range of add-ons which will let you do things like:

  • Allow private messaging between users
  • Customize the notifications users receive
  • Flag discussion board content that’s inappropriate
  • Generate user reports

5. Paid Member Subscriptions

Paid Member Subscriptions graphic

Paid Member Subscriptions is a membership plugin that can easily integrate into your existing WordPress website.

It allows you to easily add membership functionality to any area of your website, including your existing content, bbPress forum, or even WooCommerce products.

As the admin, you have complete control over the kind of membership you want to create.

Plus, users have access to their accounts to edit their account information and upgrade or downgrade their subscription plans.

Here are a few ways you can create membership-based content:

  • Restrict premium content for members of a certain level
  • Control or restrict post and page content
  • Restrict custom post types

Here are a few ways you can create an eCommerce-based community:

  • Control or restrict who can purchase your products
  • Restrict who can view your products
  • Restrict access to your entire WooCommerce shop
  • Add member discounts based on their subscription level
  • Add member discounts based on individual products

If you want to add premium functionality to your community or create a membership site, this plugin can let you do that with ease. Plus, if you have a product-based community centered around your WooCommerce store, such as a members-only discount club, this plugin can enable you to create multiple subscription tiers.

How to Make the Most Out of Your WordPress Community Website

Here are a few tips for helping your online community thrive:

1. Have a Clear Goal

Your community needs to serve a specific purpose. Your community shouldn’t be for just anyone; if that were the case, your users might as well be using Facebook.

There should be a specific reason for your community to exist, for example:

  • A community workspace for female online entrepreneurs
  • A freelance writer forum where writers can share tips and tricks
  • An eCommerce store that sells discount products to paying members

With the Profile Builder Pro or Paid Member Subscriptions WordPress community plugins, setting up all of these types of community website is easy! You can use our table at the top of the post to choose the one best for you. Below, for example, is how your registration page powered by Paid Member Subscriptions might look like with different membership plans (including free and paid!):
Membership registration form

2. Introduce Community Rules

One way to help cultivate a community is to create a set of community rules and guidelines. This will establish the tone of the community: what’s allowed and what isn’t. It goes without saying that you may wish to have rules against inappropriate or offensive content, but some successful online communities make a name for themselves with unusual community guidelines or content restrictions.

For example, if you were running a hyper-short story forum, you might limit post length to just 100 words, or require all posts to be formatted as if they were a play script – it’s up to you!

3. Manage Your Community Wisely

It’s not enough just to add community functionality, open the doors to members, and call it a day. You not only need to be active in the community but need to manage it as well.

This means you’ll need to moderate new users, approve comments, and even deal with trolls or ban certain users – especially if they’ve violated the community guidelines you created above.

4. Keep in Touch with Members and Listen to Their Feedback.

You’ll probably spend a lot of time engaging with your community and your members. Please pay attention to any criticisms or feedback they have. Even if it’s negative, you can use this to improve your community and add new features.

Start Building Your Online Community Today with WordPress Community Plugins

A WordPress community site can help to engage and retain your visitors over the long-run, plus earn you more revenue. Creating a feature-rich community site is easy with the right WordPress community plugins.

You don’t have to use every plugin highlighted in the list above, but every plugin mentioned works well together.

  • Profile Builder Pro can help you create custom user registration forms and easily manage your users.
  • BuddyPress can help you add basic social networking features entirely for free.
  • BuddyBoss can help you add a fully-featured social network to your site right out of the box.
  • bbPress is a free plugin that can help you add a forum to your WordPress site.
  • Paid Member Subscriptions can help you add membership functionality to any content area of your site, including WooCommerce.

By choosing the right WordPress plugins, you can create a feature-rich community that adds value to the lives of your users.

Profile Builder Pro

Create beautiful front-end registration and profile forms with custom fields. Setup member directories, custom redirects, cutomize user emails & more using the all in one user management plugin.

Get the plugin

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