BuddyPress is social networking in a box. You can build a social network for your company, school, sports team or niche community all based on the power and flexibility of WordPress.
BuddyPress is completely free and open source. Unlike hosted services, BuddyPress allows you to stay in control of your site and create a totally customized, unique experience.
Here's how to use BuddyPress:
Video on getting started with BuddyPress
Video on making themes work with BuddyPress
Step 1. Install the plugin
In your Dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New. Search for buddypress and install by clicking the Install Now link and follow the normal install procedure.
Step 2. Access the Setup Page
Click BuddyPress in the Dashboard. A new section will be automatically added and when you click it you will be taken directly to the set up page. You will see basic options plus tabs to go through for all the details. The Save & Next button will take you to the next step.
Step 3. Choose your components
Make your selections, then click Save and Next. The button is at the top right of the page.
All of the key features are already activated by default. You will only have to un-select the ones you don't want. BuddyPress Core and Community Members can't be turned off. It's the actual basis of the entire system.
Here's a brief description of the other features:
Extended Profiles. Customize your community with fully editable profile fields that allow your users to describe themselves.
Account Settings. Allow your users to modify their account and notification settings directly from within their profiles.
Friend Connections. Let your users make connections so they can track the activity of others and focus on the people they care about the most.
Private Messaging. Allow your users to talk to each other directly and in private. Not just limited to one-on-one discussions, messages can be sent between any number of members.
Activity Streams. Global, personal, and group activity streams with threaded commenting, direct posting, favoriting and @mentions, all with full RSS feed and email notification support.
User Groups. Groups allow your users to organize themselves into specific public, private or hidden sections with separate activity streams and member listings.
Discussion Forums. Full-powered discussion forums built directly into groups allow for more conventional in-depth conversations. NOTE: This will require an extra (but easy) setup step.
Site Tracking. Make BuddyPress aware of new posts and new comments from your site.
Step 4. Create Pages
You can let BuddyPress auto-create pages for you.
You can also choose pages already created by choosing from the drop down.
To manually create custom pages, come back to this step once you are finished.
Click Save & Next.
Please Note: If you have manually added BuddyPress navigation links in your theme you may need to remove these from your header.php to avoid duplicate links. BuddyPress now uses WordPress pages to display content. This allows you to easily change the names of pages or move them to a sub page.
Step 5. Setup Permalinks
Select the permalinks setting you would like to use.
For more advanced options please visit the permalinks settings page first, and complete this setup wizard later. To get to the permalinks setting page go to your Dashboard and then Settings > Permalinks.
To make sure the pages created in this step work correctly, pretty permalinks must be active on your site. The BuddyPress permalinks will not work correctly until you have chosen your global permalinks settings and clicked update on that page. If you haven't done this do it now or skip this step and come back to it later.
Step 6. Choose a theme
Choose your theme > click Save & Next.
BuddyPress comes with a default them. If you do not already have a theme, use the default. BuddyPress Default contains everything you need to get up and running out of the box. It supports all features and is highly customizable.
If you already have a theme that is BuddyPress friendly, you can choose the one you already have installed. If it's not designed specifically for BuddyPress you will need to go through a complex upgrade process.
There is a BuddyPress Template Pack - The BuddyPress Template Pack plugin will guide you through the process of manually upgrading your existing WordPress theme. This usually involves following the step-by-step instructions and copying the BuddyPress template files into your theme. This option requires a working knowledge of CSS and HTML, as you will need to tweak the new templates to match your existing theme.
Step 8. Finish and activate
Last thing to do is click Finish & Activate and your installation is complete.
Your site is now set up with all the social networking features available. BuddyPress has lots of additional plugins and enhancements. You can find them in the WordPress Plugins, but also on the BuddyPress site.
If you are considering paid membership for your site, we have a free tutorial explaining S2Member, which integrates with BuddyPress and automates sign up and payment for members.