June 26, 2023
7 best WordPress community plugins for 2024

As anyone who runs a website knows, one of the most essential things to focus on is keeping your visitors engaged with your content. And the best way to do that is to build up an online community on your site.

Enter community plugins on WordPress. Instead of having to develop your own community features from scratch, WordPress plugins can be installed and set up in minutes.

What’s more, unlike traditional social media platforms, WordPress community plugins can be customized to fully fit your website’s and community’s needs.

Let’s look at what these handy WordPress plugins are, the benefits of using them, and how to choose the best to help you grow your online community — without having to build a community website from the ground up.

Lastly, we’ll review some of the top community plugins to help get you started.

What are online communities?

Sephora has an online community on its website where members can learn about fashion trends and ask questions.

Before we start talking about the different WordPress community plugins out there, let’s review what online communities are and why they’re important.

Online communities are, in essence, digital spaces that encourage interaction and engagement between community members, usually around a shared topic or common theme.

Community sites can also serve as a knowledge hub for their members, such as a place to find the latest fashion trends or to learn about the best security plugins.

If you run an ecommerce business, you can benefit from developing an online community in a number of ways.

Let’s take Sephora as an example. Sephora’s online community, Beauty Insider, lets customers ask questions, get tips, and share product recommendations with other Sephora shoppers on the platform.

Not only does this lead to more frequent customer interactions, but it also generates greater interest in the company’s products, translating to more purchases.

Plus, all those tips and recommendations left by community members provide Sephora with valuable feedback to understand what customers like, dislike, and want more of in the future.

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Why use WordPress to build an online community?

Now that we’ve explored what online communities are and how they can benefit your business, it’s time to cover the best way to build your community.

While you could base your online community on popular social networks like Facebook or Reddit, there are a couple of drawbacks to doing so.

First, you don’t retain any control over the design or layout of the site. You only have access to what the social network provides, even if it isn’t optimized for your type of offerings.

Second, these networks cater to various interests and niches, which you would have to compete with to attract and retain visitors.

It’s much better and, as we’ll see, easier to develop your own online community website in the long run. But how do you do this, especially if you don’t have any formal coding training?

There are a ton of different platforms you can use nowadays to build an online community website, but WordPress is by far the best option out of all of them.

A WordPress website gives you complete control over your online community, from the design layout and features offered to whether members can access it for free or for a fee.

By creating your own WordPress website, you can adapt its functionality with community plugins, allowing you to scale your site as your digital community grows.

What are WordPress community plugins?

Community plugins are plugins that let you add features to your WordPress site to make it easier for members to engage and connect with one another.

When you first install WordPress, it’s essentially a blank canvas. On the one hand, this is wonderful as it means there are almost limitless opportunities for how to design your website. But on the other hand, it can make it difficult for first-time website designers to get started.

You want to start developing your online community website but probably don’t want to take the time to design and code the features you want individually.

And this is why community plugins are so useful.

Community plugins let you skip the arduous task of creating your own code and instead let you pick from a variety of pre-made plugins, many of which are free to use when getting started.

Here are a few examples of what community plugins can help your users do:

  • Create user profiles.
  • Contribute to discussion forums.
  • Share, like, and comment on posts.
  • Chat with other community members on your website.
  • Subscribe to newsletters and receive email notifications.

How to choose the best WordPress community plugins

The WordPress community plugins directory.

With so many different kinds of community plugins on the WordPress platform, it can be tough to know how to choose the right one for your type of community.

Let’s go over some of the essential things to bear in mind when selecting community plugins to install on your WordPress site:

  • Functionality: What the plugin does and how it will benefit your community. Some plugins are for ecommerce, while others are for staying in contact with your customers. Specifying which functionalities you want your website to have can help narrow down your search.
  • Security: If the plugin is secure and tested and whether or not it will damage your site. Good plugins should come with features that allow things like malware and corrupted file removal, real-time backups, and bot protection.
  • Support: Whether there’s customer support to help troubleshoot if you run into a problem. Plugins with good support can help you in the event of a security breach or plugin crash.
  • Ease of use: How easy is the plugin to install, set up, and use? The easier a plugin is to use, the better you can take advantage of its community-building features. Many plugins have drag-and-drop functionality that is both beginner-friendly and efficient for designing multiple webpages.
  • Cost: Is it a free plugin, or does it only have a limited free version available? Paid plugins can add increased customizability to your community website but come with the downside of costing more, sometimes from $20 to $400 or more.
  • Compatibility: Whether or not your chosen plugin is compatible with other plugins on your website. Downloading multiple incompatible plugins could lead to glitches or site crashes, negatively impacting your community members’ experience.

The best community plugins for WordPress

Now that you have a solid understanding of what WordPress community plugins are and how to choose them, it’s time to talk about the best community plugins for WordPress that you should consider adding to your own website.

1. BuddyPress

BuddyPress WordPress community plugin.

BuddyPress is an open-source WordPress community plugin that lets you transform your WordPress site into its own social network of sorts. BuddyPress is free to use, making it an ideal choice for beginners setting up their first community site.

Key features of this plugin include the following:

  • Creating member profiles and profile pages.
  • Connecting with community members.
  • Sending private messages.
  • Showing activity streams.
  • Building out user groups.

Although BuddyPress is an excellent plugin for developing an online community, it’s not compatible with every WordPress theme. This handy directory lists out all the compatible BuddyPress templates so you can ensure your website is compatible.

Best WordPress community plugin for: Social networks.

Price: Free.

2. Paid Membership Subscriptions

Paid Membership Subscriptions WordPress plugin for communities.

Paid Membership Subscriptions is a WordPress membership plugin that lets you create and manage a subscription service for your website.

Key features of this plugin include the following:

  • Register users.
  • Set custom profile features.
  • Manage subscriptions.
  • Restrict premium content.
  • Set up recurring member payments.

What’s particularly useful about this plugin is that it also integrates with WooCommerce. So, if you manage an ecommerce store, you can fit it into your existing platform.

Best WordPress community plugin for: Ecommerce websites.

Price: Free. Starting at $75 for the pro version.

3. wpForo Forum

wpForo Forum for WordPress forums.

wpForo Forum is a WordPress forum plugin that allows you to build out a feature-rich digital meeting place for your community members.

All the forums built with this plugin are responsive and offer the following benefits:

  • Multi-lingual forum functionality.
  • Badge and rankings system.
  • SEO-friendly layout.
  • Anti-spam blockers.

Better yet, this forum integrates well with a number of other WordPress community plugins. It even integrates with the aforementioned BuddyPress, allowing you to reap the benefits of both a community forum and social media network.

You can also purchase add-ons with wpForo Forum if you want to further extend your site’s functionality.

Best WordPress community plugin for: Forums.

Price: Free. Add-ons available.

4. Profile Builder

Profile Builder for community-based websites.

Profile Builder is another user management tool, this time used to create and manage user registration forms. This plugin makes it simple to customize a front-end login widget for your website, providing you with the tools you need to assign user roles and capabilities to your members.

Other key features of this plugin include the following:

  • Member directories and user listing pages.
  • Custom logins from anywhere on your site.
  • Multiple registration form creation.
  • Multiple edit profile form creations.
  • User role editor.

Best WordPress community plugin for: Managing users.

Price: Free. Starting at $75 for the pro version.

5. Youzify

Youzify plugin for online WordPress communities.

Youzify is an enhanced version of the BuddyPress plugin and must be used in conjunction with it in order to work. With this plugin, you can add additional features to your BuddyPress community and make your website more user-friendly.

Key features of this plugin include the following:

  • Adding a user activity stream.
  • Allowing friend requests.
  • Adding follow options for users.
  • Giving points and badges to other users.
  • Allowing replies, likes, and comments on user posts.
  • Add color schemes and create fun themes for your community.

Best WordPress community plugin for: Building membership sites.

Price: Free. Starting at $49 for the pro version.

6. PeepSo

PeepSo is one of the best WordPress community plugins for building a social network.

PeepSo is a free community plugin that gives you the tools to build a social network on your WordPress site.

This easy-to-use plugin comes with the following helpful features:

  • Messaging and live chat.
  • Media uploads, including videos and photos.
  • Custom widgets for community engagement.
  • Links from a multitude of supported members, including YouTube.

This theme’s lightness and slim design make it compatible with a variety of WordPress themes, so you can customize your website to your heart’s content.

Best WordPress community plugin for: Social engagement.

Price: Free. Starting at $19/month for pro.

7. bbPress

bbPress is the best WordPress community plugin for adding a discussion board to your website.

bbPress is a free and open-source WordPress forum plugin specifically designed for creating discussion boards. Intentionally designed to be beginner-friendly, this plugin integrates elegantly with your existing WordPress community website.

Some of the top features it offers include the following:

  • Compatible with numerous WordPress plugins.
  • Scalable with your community.
  • Simple, flexible design.

What’s great about bbPress is that, as an open-source project, it has the entire knowledge of the WordPress community at its back. Patches and novel configurations are regularly added, and if there’s something specific you’d like for your website, you may even be able to request it.

Best WordPress community plugin for: Discussion boards.

Price: Free.

Final thoughts: Choosing the best WordPress community plugins

Designing and managing a WordPress community website is an excellent way to showcase your brand, share knowledge, and connect with like-minded individuals around the world.

And without a doubt, installing the right WordPress community plugins can help make the process of designing an eye-catching website easier and more affordable.

But before you can build a WordPress community website, you have to choose a hosting provider. Nexcess offers fully-managed WordPress hosting solutions that scale with your website.

Contact us to learn about how the services we offer can help you design the best WordPress website for your online community.

Maddy Osman
Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman is a WordPress expert, WordCamp US speaker, bestselling author, and the Founder and SEO Content Strategist at The Blogsmith. She has a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Iowa and is a WordCamp Denver organizer while also operating The Blogsmith, an SEO content agency for B2B tech companies that works with clients like HubSpot, Automattic, and Sprout Social. Learn more about The Blogsmith's process and get in touch to talk content strategy: www.TheBlogsmith.com

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