One of the most requested features by professional associations and businesses building an online community is a WordPress site with the functionality of a Yahoo Group.
You an replicate most of the features of a Yahoo Group using WordPress Plug-Ins and AWeber.With Yahoo Groups, you can:
- Member Directory
- Event Calendar
- Discussion Forums
- E-Mail Notification of new posts
- Respond to posts by e-mail
However, while you own the content, you don’t own the application which makes it hard to move in the future.
Here are a list of WordPress Plug-Ins you can use to replicate many of the features of the Yahoo Group.
|Event Calendar||WP-Events – A very simple plug-in that will allow you to create an events calendar with registration pages. Use the sidebar widget to will display X number of upcoming events. Create a page of all or certain categories of events.|
|Discussion Forums||A simple solution is to use the built-in comments feature to drive discussions. Within WordPress Settings, you can make it a threaded comment area.
Simple:Press is another WordPress plug-in that creates a forum area. You can even set different member levels that tie into a Members plug-in. Simple:Press is easier to customize and use than bbPress and BuddyPress.
|Email New Posts||Setup an RSS email broadcast using Simple:Press RSS url.
There are some WordPress plug-ins that will broadcast an e-mail notification, but they don’t work well. It is not built in to the forum plug-in.
A free option would be to use FeedBurner’s Email Broadcast. However, you cannot control the subscribers. Someone that is not a member could be receiving this.
Another option is AWeber. AWeber is an e-mail marketing service with a more advanced autoresponder and RSS Broadcast service than iContact, MailChimp, and 1ShoppingCart.
AWeber checks an RSS feed a minimum of every 2 hours. On the client sites where I am using this solution, members usually receive the e-mail notice in 15 minutes of posting.
|Post by Email Reply||There is no secure solution for this. The members will have to log in to post replies.
However, the best web strategy for membership sites is to have your members access your site as often as possible. How else will they see upcoming events, new features, etc.
A Note About Using Email Accounts
On many host accounts, there is a limit of how many emails you can send per hour or half-hour. Make sure you are familiar with this limitation.
Status of BuddyPress (up and coming)
BuddyPress has potential. It has really cool features such as a member directory, forums, status updates, and friend connections.
However, this plug-in was originally created for WordPress MU and has been only recently re-written for regular WordPress (last half of 2010).
As of January 2011, I don’t recommend it. It and its plug-ins are buggy and customizing the look and feel is very hard. Take it from someone who invested over 20 hours learning the capabilities of this plug-in.
NOTE: There are many developers working on Buddypress to make it more robust and I think it will stabilize sometime in 2011. Just take a look at Studiopress’ own GenesisConnect for Buddypress.
Please comment if you feel differently.