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.