A few days ago on Blogging Tips, Zac Johnson wrote about the importance of Adding a Forum and Community to Your Blog. If you are wondering why you should do this, be sure to read his post before trying out one of these tools. Not only does he explain the benefits, but he also tells you when the best time is to start a community on your blog.
Today, I’m going to go over 5 free tools that can help you achieve the goal of having a blog community. These tools integrate smoothly into any WordPress blog and are sure to help bring more traffic to your blog as well as increase readers and user engagement.
BlogFrog adds a mini community to your blog complete with a forum, profiles, photo sharing, live chats, broadcasts, and much more. They also make it easy to integrate your forum with your blog via embeddable conversations. I recently recommended this tool to a good friend and she’s really happy with it so far.
Although you’ll actually create your own BlogFrog community, they give you an embed code to add to your blog. You can add widgets and even monetize your community thru BlogFrom (they offer a generous CPM by the way). Members can create an account or use their Facebook account to join.
If BlogFrog isn’t enough and you’re looking for a bigger community, BuddyPress is definitely the best options. It’s a WordPress plugin that turns your blog into a social network with too many features to name.
Some of the top features are: activity streams, user groups, multi-site blogging, extended profiles, discussion forums, private messaging, and much more. BuddyPress even has its own plugins and themes that you can use to add even more features and customizations.
Mingle Forum is a WordPress plugin that adds a forum to your blog. It’s lightweight, secure, easy-to-use and quick to setup. Their mission is to “keep it simple” and that they do very well.
If you’re looking for another social networking option, Mingle also has a plugin for that called WP Mingle. It’s not as flashy as BlogFrog or BuddyPress, but it has a nice set of features including: user profiles, pretty profile URLs, friend activity, email notifications, Twitter-Like user tagging and private messaging. However, to get the forum feature you’ll need the additional Mingle forum plugin.
As the name suggests, Tal.ki lets you embed forums into your WordPress blog via a plugin. It features: customizable CSS, private and public forums, email notifications for users, an announcement feature, the ability to lock topics, image and video embedding, and more. Users can also login via Facebook, Twitter, Google and more.
Another embeddable forum option is Vanilla Forums. “Vanilla allows you to create a customized community that rewards positive participation, automatically curates content and lets members drive moderation.” It also has a feature that lets you add forum widgets to your blog to help integrate the two.
If you’re looking for something that’s really simple to to use and easy to setup, Simple:Press is for you. It’s the forum plugin for WordPress. It’s lighweight, fast, and has its own themes and templates that can be used to customize it further.
Some of its features include: forum ranks and badges, forum statistics, custom icons for groups and forums, RSS feeds for forum and topics, email notifications, blog integration features, SEO support, security features, and much more. Even though it’s called “Simple” it sure does have tons of amazing features.
With these 5 free tools, you have many options to choose from. So, which one do you prefer?
Do you already have a forum or community on your blog? If so, which tool are you using?
Charnita is a full-time freelance writer and blogger with 3+ years of experience, and also the owner of SocialWebTools.info. She's also an early adopter who loves trying out new social media tools along with Web and iOS (iPad) apps. Feel free to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.