Whether you’re an online freelancer or running a brick and mortar store, having a website is no longer enough to get and retain customers. You also have to provide value through engaging content. Engagement drives traffic to your website. It provides new leads that you can convert to customers. Engagement is also key to retaining customers.
So, along with your website, you need to create a community of customers and engage with them. This is the best strategy to grow your business. Online communities have created and continue to create enormous value for businesses.
In this post, I'll show you some of the best WordPress community plugins available on CodeCanyon. But before we do, let’s talk a bit about online communities.
What Is an Online Community?
An online community is:
"a network of people who communicate with one another and with an organization through interactive tools such as e-mail, discussion boards and chat systems." — Business Dictionary
Online communities come in different forms:
- online forums
- social networks
- community blogs
- email groups
- subscription newsletters
Communities are hosted on a variety of platforms. Each community serves a specific purpose. Before you decide what platform you will use to start and host your community, here are some things you should consider:
- What specific purpose is your online community going to serve?
- What value are you going to provide for your members, and how will you provide it?
- What type of community do you want to create?
- What kind of content do you want to share with members?
- Finally, how you will keep the community going?
Importance of Online Communities
Because they are integral to the success of your business, here’s why it makes sense to create an online community as part of your business growth strategy:
You will be able to reach a very large number of people, which means you will have access to high-quality leads that you can market to cheaply and convert to reliable repeat customers. You won’t have to rely on expensive traditional advertising.
Having an online community means that you will be challenged to provide information that is of value to your users. This will help you build a loyal following, which means longevity.
Through the community, you'll be able to constantly engage with your customers. You can post questions about what changes your customers want to see and get immediate feedback about what they think of a new product or service. This level of engagement keeps them coming back.
What Does an Online Community Need?
Online communities need tools to facilitate direct engagement between users and your content, between users and the business, and between the users themselves.
Some tools needed to facilitate engagement in your online community are:
- membership tools for users to sign up, create profiles, and log in
- means to engage with content through commenting, posting, or liking
- ways for members to communicate with each other
- the ability to join groups and have private conversations
Ultimately, the kinds of tools you need depend on the purpose you want the online community to serve.
Why Is WordPress the Perfect Choice for Building an Online Community?
Millions of websites are now powered by WordPress.
WordPress is built specifically for content. It started as a blogging tool, but was later revamped into a fully fledged content management system. It is highly adaptable and can be customized by adding themes and plugins to get the desired results.
The fact that it’s easy to customize makes it an ideal choice for building your online community.
Building an Online Community With WordPress
WordPress is a content management system that has user management built into it. This takes care of your user registration and login tools.
WordPress also comes with a built-in posting and commenting mechanism. This lets users engage with content you make available, questions you have for them regarding your product and service, and each other.
The basics of hosting an online community are already there with WordPress. And thanks to WordPress's flexibility, any other features you could want for an online community are available as plugins, either in free plugins from WordPress.org or more full-featured premium plugins from CodeCanyon.
Now that you understand the importance of having your online community, I’m sure you can’t wait to get started creating your online community so you can grow your website and engage your users.
What Are Community Plugins?
You don’t need to create a community platform from scratch. There are plugins for that.
A plugin is a piece of software that allows you to add a specific function on your website. It saves you the time and headache of creating that particular functionality from scratch.
A community plugin is a piece of software you add to your WordPress website to help you create your own social network or online community.
There are plenty of community plugins available to help you out. When choosing a plugin to start and host your online community, here are some things to consider:
- It must be easy to use, flexible, and adaptable to fast-changing technology.
- It must be fast: as your community grows, loading speeds become important.
- It must be fully responsive and compatible with all devices—desktops, laptops, and mobile.
It must seamlessly integrate with other WordPress plugins that you’re using.
Now that we know what to look for, let's review some of the best community plugins on CodeCanyon.
With UserPro, you can do just about anything you need to build your WordPress Community website. Here are some things you can do:
- Build your own community with searchable members directory.
- Give each user a custom and elegant profile.
- Customize registration and login.
- Restrict access to content based on membership level.
- Enable social connect and instant profile sync via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bkontakt, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
User ACleverCat says this about UserPro:
"I've been using this plugin for years. Works great and looks professional on the front-end. Plus, really good customer support..."
Youzer focuses on creating beautiful community and user profiles. It offers a lot of tools to enable users to customize their profile and community pages.
Some of its features include:
- social login
- extremely customizable, with many different header styles, profile widgets, and color schemes
- fully responsive design
- lots of social features: likes, follows, points, reviews, ratings, badges, mentions, comments, and more...
It’s also fully compatible with the BuddyPress platform.
User cmh2010 says:
"It's fast, lightweight and beautiful, with excellent support. Great plugin."
For subscription-based communities that give access to content and other services depending on membership level, Ultimate Membership Pro is your plugin of choice.
Ultimate Membership Pro allows you to:
- Create your subscription-based online community with different membership fee levels.
- Provide different levels of access to content and other services based on the type of membership each user has paid for.
Here’s a look at some of its features:
- manage your membership forms, membership pages and content lockers directly from WPBakery Page Builder (Visual Composer)
- drip content: release content at regular intervals, with settings for when each item becomes available based on subscription time or level
- content locker: lock content based on subscription level
- sell subscriptions using WooCommerce
- integrated payment gateways: PayPal, Authorize.net, Stripe, and more
- integrated with popular email marketing platforms
Customer BreoganGal has this to say:
"An excellent plugin, it adapts perfectly thanks to all its editing possibilities... as well as editing the fields I need. Keep in that way!"
PrivateContent is a powerful yet easy way to turn your WordPress site into a true multilevel membership platform.
It comes with complete user management, a modern form framework, and a unique engine to restrict any part of your website. All this without needing coding skills!
Some features that make PrivateContent awesome include:
- five different ways to incorporate the login form into your custom WordPress theme
- use third-party forms to register users and edit their data
- WooCommerce checkout to create PrivateContent users
- locked posts can be searchable and indexable but have hidden contents
PrivateContent is also integrated with Google Analytics to provide precise reports: each page view, each login, logout, and registration will be recorded. You will be able to know exactly what users see. All in real time!
PrivateContent is a developer-friendly plugin and can be easily extended and customized by developers.
Customer Fibeus says this about PrivateContent :
"Amazing! The ease of use. The flexibility. The attention to detail. Thank you for the amazing plugin, making my life just so much easier. Great work. An absolute steal at this price for user specific content!"
Make the membership building process as simple as possible with the ARMember plugin.
ARMember is a one-stop solution to all your membership needs, including member management, payment tracking, drip content, and more. It is so easy to set up that within minutes you will have your own membership site up and running!
You can do so much more, for example:
- set up custom grace periods for late or failed membership payments
- upgrade or downgrade membership levels
- invite-only membership signup
- choose from a wide selection of striking and customizable templates for member profiles and directory listings
- track member statistics and payment histories
Members are more comfortable signing up if they are being offered convenient and popular payment gateways. The ARMember membership plugin for WordPress comes with some of the most popular gateways like Stripe, PayPal, Bank Transfer, 2Checkout, and Authorize.net.
User Lynn_HCM says this:
"If you are looking for an all-in-one membership plugin for your WordPress website with amazing and fast customer support then I highly recommend AR Membership."
Let’s face it, sometimes plugins can overwhelm you with too many features that you’ll never use. WP Membership strips this down to the basics and provides you with a few beautiful, well-made templates for your membership site.
Some templates you can choose from include:
- five user profile templates
- two signup templates
- seven stylish pricing table templates
Simplicity is another great feature of WP Membership. You don’t need to configure a lot of stuff on your website—just install it and use it. The plugin will create all the necessary pages, email templates and settings on installation.
Other great features include:
- MailChimp support
- PayPal and Stripe payment gateways
- free and paid trial memberships
- fully translatable into 12 languages
User djanastasios says:
"I'm very happy with this plugin. It works perfectly, is easy to install, and the support is responsive and fast!!!"
The User Profiles Made Easy plugin does just what it says—it makes user profiles easy. It offers a front-end profile, login, and registration plugin for your membership-based WordPress site.
- fully searchable membership directory
- beautiful custom profile pages
customizable and searchable members list
private content module that restricts parts of the site based on user roles and guests
- private content restriction messages with predefined design templates
The User Profiles Made Easy WordPress plugin is one of the best ways to build an online membership directory.
User RomeoLab says:
"A great plugin, but greater support!! Very fast in answering emails and fixing problems..."
Endless customization possibilities built into WordPress have made it easier than ever to build and host your own online community. You don’t need to build your community platform from scratch. There are many WordPress community plugins to help you get started. Once you have established what purpose you want your online community to serve, you will find community plugins for every need on CodeCanyon.