The first thing you’ll need is the BuddyPress plugin. WordPress already allows users to login to your website (if you enable that setting – it’s in Settings > General), but when you add BuddyPress, users can also create their own profile, private message other users, and create groups.
That’s only the beginning, through! Here are some great extensions to BuddyPress that really boost its functionality. Mix and match them to create your own unique network!
Want to build forum functionality into your website? This plugin makes it easy to turn your website (or just a portion of your website) into clean, user-friendly forums. bbPress also works as a standalone forum plugin, but using it with BuddyPress enables more complex user interaction, like messaging and groups.
If you’re looking to have something a little more exclusive, or even premium, the free Membership plugin from WPMU is right up your alley. The free version comes with two levels of membership, so you can restrict access to all or part of your site. It’s also fully integrated with BuddyPress and bbPress, so when someone creates a membership profile, they are automatically registered with your social network, too. (PS – this plugin is a great way to limit some parts of your site whether or not you’re using BuddyPress!)
Welcome Pack for BuddyPress
BuddyPress is missing a major component – welcome emails for your new users! This plugin adds the ability to send your new friends a message, as well as invitations to join.
BuddyPress Activity Privacy
Give your network the privacy they deserve with this plugin which will let them decide if a particular post is for everyone, logged in users, friends only, admins only, or just for themselves.
Another fantastic plugin from the great developers over at WPMU, this one adds live chat functionality to your website. When integrated with BuddyPress, your users can talk to each other directly over your site! You can also let people sign in with Facebook or Twitter to join in the chats.
BuddyPress Activity Plus
BuddyPress doesn’t come bundled with the ability for users to share links, images, or video, but this plugin makes it easy by just adding three buttons to your users’ activity streams. Now they can share YouTube videos, upload images, and share links to all their favorite sites.
Last but DEFINITELY not least…
W3 Total Cache
This one might not have anything to do with BuddyPress integration, but it’s likely that after installing all those plugins, you’re gonna notice a lag on your site. Speed it back up with this plugin that helps your site cache offline versions so it loads WAY faster!
BuddyPress is an amazing resource to create personalized social networks. Check it out!