wordpress community plugins

7 Best WordPress Community Plugins to Build Your Online Community(With Free Options)

Imagine having an interest, a business, or an organization no one talks about. That’s not what you want, right?

Creating an online community can go a long way. You get to form real connections, generate leads, discover unique ideas, gather valuable feedback, build credibility…the list goes on.

If you have decided to create one, congratulations, you’ve taken a great initiative. And if you’ve decided to create your online community with WordPress, even better!

Just like websites, WordPress makes it easy to create online communities that incorporate all kinds of digital communication functionalities. All you need is a plugin with features and functionalities your online community needs.

If you’re not sure which plugin to choose, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best WordPress community plugins to build your own virtual tribe.

WordPress community plugins offer the flexibility and features required to build thriving online communities. But before going into building an online community, let’s recap what an online community is in general.

What is an online community?

At its core, an online community is a digital platform where people can connect with like-minded people and interact via digital communication tools.

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Now, you might be wondering how it’s possible to build a community online as we’re used to communities built in person.

However, the evolution of social media platforms means that we now have easy access to numerous online communication tools. Thus, forming a community online is much easier compared to building one in person.

With that being said, you’re probably part of an online community or two —be it a Facebook group to interact with your friends on fun topics or a Linkedin group to have conversations with people who have the same career objectives.

What is a WordPress community plugin?

wordpress community plugin

A WordPress community plugin lets you foster an online community using WordPress. This kind of tool may offer several features and functionalities for allowing people to interact with each other in various ways.

For instance, you can build a social networking platform where people can share posts and engage with posts and communicate via private messages.

Additionally, WordPress community plugins may offer features like forum management, social networking, membership management, private messaging, search, etc., and allow you to monetize your community or integrate with other online tools.

Is it worth building your online community in WordPress?

Is it worth building your online community in WordPress?

Building an online community with like-minded people and similar interest take time and effort. While it’s easy to create an online community on Facebook or other social media platforms, they do have 3 major drawbacks:

  1. Your group is subject to any changes the platform makes. So it feels like building your community on rented land.
  1. Your community member’s data and privacy aren’t a priority to social media platforms. And the worst part is you don’t have any control over that!
  1. You won’t get access to valuable insights and data your community generates. All of those go to the platform you’re using. Since these insights and data are an excellent opportunity to understand your audience and create a curated experience, you miss out on a valuable opportunity.

When you build your online community with WordPress, you’re in control. There won’t be any changes unless you do it on your own, you get to protect your community member’s data and utilize the various data and insights your online community generates.

That said, whether you’re looking to build a branded community for your organization or a community that’s driven towards a specific purpose, WordPress community plugins are a game-changer!

Features to look for in a WordPress community plugin

WordPress community plugin features

WordPress already has posts and commenting functionality built into the system. While that’s a good starting point, you’ll need some other features to effectively create and manage a community website. Here are some features to look for in a WordPress community plugin:

  • Community features: Community features like post sharing, reactions, direct messaging, etc., will allow members to engage socially. So, having these features is mandatory.
  • Frontend posting: Most people wouldn’t want to sign up in a community they don’t know much about. However, your community also needs to grow. So, your community plugin should allow users to share blog posts, images, and articles from the front end.
  • Search/Filtering options: In order to let people connect with like-minded people, your plugin needs to include various search and filtering capabilities.
  • Administrative/privacy control: Since a lot of people will be interacting with each other, communities can get messy at times. Thus, having administrative and privacy control in your plugin is mandatory!
  • Location service integration: If you want people to have a better overall experience and find people they can meet, you might want to consider a plugin that integrates with Google Maps.

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  • Notifications: If you want your community members to stay updated and engaged with your community, site notifications, and email notifications are a must. They’ll help the users stay in the loop.
  • Monetization options: If you’re creating a private online community and want to charge a subscription fee for the membership, your plugin should also have monetization options and integrate with payment gateways such as Paypal or Stripe. This is specifically beneficial for online course communities and paid subscription-based websites.
  • Integrations: Depending on the community type, you may need to send email notifications using an email marketing tool or store membership data elsewhere(e.g. CRMs, email marketing tools). So, it’s best to look for a plugin that integrates with popular email marketing tools or CRMs.

7 free and premium WordPress community plugins

Ready to choose a WordPress community plugin?

We’ve listed the 7 best WordPress community plugins based on the features we’ve discussed. Depending on your requirements, you may need to choose one or two plugins to build your online community.


buddyboss WordPress community plugin

BuddyBoss is a suite of tools rather than a plugin. They offer a plugin and theme to build your own social community with your personal branding, guidelines, and features.

You can use the BuddyBoss plugin to set various community features, rules, and guidelines. It’s also possible to control privacy data and users. On the other hand, the theme lets you turn your regular WordPress site into a social platform where people can connect and interact.

Along with the plugin, they also offer a mobile app that you can use to give your community members the freedom to access the community anywhere, anytime. That said, BuddyBoss’s suite of tools will blend well into your tech stack if you’re building a community on WordPress!

BuddyBoss features:

  • Community dashboard to give community members an overview of recent activities and interactions
  • Member profiles and activity streams with customizable fields
  • Members can share posts, photos, videos, links, and files with custom privacy controls
  • Members can search and connect with friends and colleagues by following each other
  • Ability to interact via like, comment, mention, DM,
  • Ability to configure community site notifications and email notifications
  • Members can create private groups, events, job boards, live classes, etc., and invite friends
  • Payment integration for selling your courses or subscriptions
  • Native mobile app with real-time sync, push notifications, and many other features
  • Integration with 1000+ tools such as WooCommerce, LearnDash LMS, LifterLMS, Restrict Content Pro FluentCRM, BuddyPress Addons, etc.

Overall, BuddyBoss has complete offerings if you are looking to build a community online. Despite the wide range of features, the complete suite of tools is available for just $228/year. However, if you also want the mobile app, you’ll have to pay $179/month.


buddypress WordPress community plugin

BuddyPress is one of the most popular community plugins for WordPress built by WordPress contributors. In fact, it is what inspired the contributors to create the aforementioned BuddyBoss plugin.

The BuddyPress plugin lets members sign up as WordPress users, make friends, and start engaging in posts and forum discussions. In the admin area, you’ll have all the controls to manage your online community.

The best part about BuddyPress is that is fairly extendable —meaning you’ll find a lot of integrations to connect your community. And if you’re a developer, you’ll find the BuddyPress plugin compatible with most themes and plugins so all you’ll need to do is adjust some styling to make everything look perfect.

BuddyPress features:

  • Members can sign up on your website and edit their profile with customizable fields
  • Members can participate in various social activities like groups and forum discussions
  • Activity streams to view and track member activities
  • Private and group messaging for members to communicate
  • Privacy control option for members and admin
  • Site notifications and email notifications to help members and webmasters stay updated
  • A lot of BuddyPress plugins are available to extend the plugin’s functionalities

Although the BuddyPress dashboard looks fairly old, the plugin is built for both simple and complex social communities. As a result, you can build a simple online community forum or go advanced with sophisticated communication features.

The base plugin is available for free. They also made several free plugins that help extend the site’s functionalities.


bbpress WordPress community plugin

bbPress is designed for creating lightweight forum websites in WordPress. This plugin is a good choice especially if you want to create a simple support forum where people can post queries and interact with each other.

Take the FluentCRM plugin’s support forum in the WordPress repository for an example —bbPress lets you create the same kind of forum.

We recommend using bbPress for three reasons. Firstly, its easy functionality makes it easy to build a forum. Secondly, it’s well-coded so the plugin won’t bloat your site and the users will experience top-notch speed. And finally, the plugin has tons of free add-ons which you can use for customization.

bbPress features:

  • Compatibility with almost every theme and plugin
  • 200+ add-ons to customize your online community
  • Ability to search, filter, and sort posts and comments
  • Private messaging, posting, and commenting features to let members interact
  • Spam protection to prevent spam submission and hacking
  • Ability to create groups, sub-groups and assign user roles to different members
  • Customizable forum and email notifications
  • Supports a lot of languages and is compatible with WordPress multisite environment,

To sum up, the bbPress plugin is a wonderful plugin to have on your website. This plugin is a great fit regardless of what kind of online forum you want to build.

While the plugin itself is pretty capable of creating a basic online forum, tons of add-ons will let you add advanced functionalities. And because the plugin and most of its add-ons are free, checking out bbPress is definitely worth it!

Ultimate Member

ultimate member WordPress community plugin

The Ultimate Member is a user profile and membership plugin that is powering over 200,000+ websites. It has an intuitive UI to create social or premium subscription-based communities without much effort.

Like most of the plugins mentioned above, Ultimate Member enables webmasters to set up community platforms and content restrictions. Members can register and set up their profiles via editable customizable fields. 

One great thing about Ultimate Member is that most of its community functionalities are available as extensions. Community features like making friends, social interactions, following, user locations, etc. can be added using specific extensions.

As a result, you won’t have to bloat your website with features you don’t need.

Ultimate Member features:

  • User registration with control over registration status, action, and user role
  • Anti-spam features to prevent spamming
  • Custom user profile with editable fields, custom fields, and activity stream
  • Member directories with the ability to search and filter members
  • User account controls for account management and privacy controls
  • Site and email notifications to keep members and site owners updated
  • Content restriction features to build a premium community
  • Lots of integrations and add-ons to extend plugin functionality

Ultimate Member offers complete online community features to build a regular or premium community on WordPress. The plugin is highly extendable and lightweight compared to most other WordPress community plugins.

You can get the core version with basic functionalities for free. However, the best of features are available as extensions and you can get all of them with an extension pass for $249.


youzify WordPress community plugin

Youzify is built on top of the BuddyPress plugin we’ve mentioned above. The plugin adds more customization options to your existing BuddyPress community website and improves your community website experience overall.

Youzify adds attractive member profile header styles, member and group directories, activity streams, and global feeds to your BuddyPress community. You’ll find different variants of these functionalities so that you can choose the best possible appearance for your community website.

Apart from that, Youzify offers many additional features and functionalities to your community website so that you can go social and create a robust community website. That said, this is a powerful community plugin to have at your disposal.

Youzify features:

  • Members can sign up, make friends, follow, private message, and interact with each other via likes, comments, mentions, etc.
  • Live on-site notifications and email notifications for regular updates
  • Ability to send site-wide notices to inform people about important news
  • Members can share images, videos, audio, and attachments
  • Various search and filtering systems including hashtags
  • Members can earn points, reviews, and share feedback

Originally a Codecanyon plugin, Youzify was recently launched on WordPress.org for free. Youzify Pro will cost you $49.


profilegrid WordPress community plugin

ProfileGrid is a surprisingly powerful membership and community plugin that’s available for free. It offers a lot of sophisticated features for building your custom-branded online community.

While ProfileGrid is primarily built for creating and managing user profiles, the plugin can do a lot more than that. You can create groups with most social networking functionalities such as messaging, notifications, blogs, friends, etc.

It’s also possible to build private communities with the plugin’s content restriction feature. You can handle the payments using the plugin’s WooCommerce integration or Stripe payment gateway.

ProfileGrid features:

  • Social networking features like group walls, private messages, notifications, friends, and blogs
  • Individual registration forms and social login for membership registration
  • Privacy controls and spam protection
  • Content restriction for creating premium communities
  • bbPress integration for building custom forum profiles
  • Geolocation for locating users
  • WooCommerce and Stripe integration for subscriptions and payments

Despite the fact that ProfileGrid is marketed as a user profile and membership plugin, it offers pretty generous social networking functionalities. As a result, it turns out a very lightweight plugin for building a community online.

The best part? ProfileGrid core plugin incorporates most of the features for free and the extensions aren’t pricey either. You can get access to all the extensions for just $79/year. 

Paid Member Subscriptions

paid memberships pro wordpress community plugin

Paid Member Subscriptions is an eCommerce-based community plugin for WordPress. It is specifically tailored for those who want to create a private community on WordPress.

Paid Member Subscriptions has a user-friendly interface that lets users add membership capabilities to a website. With this plugin, you can create various subscription levels and utilizes shortcodes to enable membership registration. It’s also possible to integrate the plugin with bbPress to offer social community features.

The plugin gives you full control over membership levels, member data, and subscription plans. It offers monetization options including free, one-time, as well as recurring subscription plans and you can integrate WooCommerce for payments. 

Paid Member Subscriptions features:

  • Content restriction feature to gate content based on membership levels
  • Ability to control or modify member data and subscription plans
  • Restrict pages, posts, and custom post types based on membership levels
  • Ability to offer membership level-based discount coupons
  • Email notifications to remind users of their subscription plans
  • Various free and paid add-ons to extend the plugin’s capability

The Paid Member Subscriptions plugin is a good fit for those who want to build and monetize their online community. There’s a basic version of the plugin which you can download for free. The premium version with 7 basic add-ons will cost $99.

Which is the best community WordPress plugin?

Being a user-centric company ourselves, we understand the value of a great community and know exactly how important it is for you.

We tried to cover the best-of-the-best, the most powerful community plugins for WordPress. Which essentially means that you won’t go wrong with any of the plugins we’ve mentioned above.

However, if you’re looking to build a community with highly-sophisticated features and functionalities, the BuddyBoss plugin with its suite of tools tops our list. It is as user-friendly as a plugin can get and has a ton of features to cover any kind of customization requirements you can ask for.

Regardless of the plugin you choose, we recommend planning your community website in advance. This includes having a clear idea of what you want to build, what the community guidelines will be, and how members will be using your community.

So, which plugin do you like most? Did we miss any?

Let us know in the comments!

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