The expression of community has changed considerably since the emergence of social media technologies, but its basic foundation – the notion of individuals exchanging information, ideas, and opinions – remains firmly intact. Today, one of the most widely-used tools in developing these types of exchanges online is WordPress, the popular blogging and publishing platform. Part of its appeal is the ease with which users can build advanced functionality into their sites with plugins. If you’re interested in building a community around your site, there are plenty of third-party add-ons that can help create one.
These 10 WordPress plugins add features that will help you to engage your user base.
Highlight Your Best Content
1. Featured Content Gallery — If you’re not an expert in programming or design, Featured Content Gallery makes it easy to highlight images, posts, or pages anywhere on your site. It comes with a sleek and contemporary design that is fully customizable through the WordPress dashboard, so that you can integrate your highlighted content seamlessly with the rest of your site.
2. Popularity Contest — Your users will want to know what’s popular and interesting to their peers in the community and the Popularity Contest Plugin can help. It keeps track of the most popular posts and pages on your site and acts as a leaderboard that directs users to the most active content in your community. You can customize the point values assigned to user actions on the site, such as comments or views, and display the results easily in a widgetized-sidebar.
Facilitate User Engagement
3. Viper’s Video Quicktags — Including video in your community is easy using Viper’s Video Quicktags. Just enter the URL of the video in the prompt box and see a preview of the video right on your screen. Then specify the dimensions and other customizations you’d like to add and see your final product before saving it into your post. Supported video sites include YouTube, Google Video, Vimeo and others.
4. WPtouch — Part of keeping the community vibrant means letting your users take it with them. You can go mobile with your community using WPtouch and avoid building a mobile website or the costs of developing an iPhone application. You can control the mobile user interface by allowing the browser to automatically route users to the interface of your choosing – your site or the WPtouch interface, which looks similar to an iPhone app. You can also show or hide post excerpts and customize the icons and general appearance of your mobile site.
5. Disqus Comment System — Nothing stops a potential commenter in their tracks faster than having to set up a user ID and password in order to leave a message on your site. At the same time, most of us would like some sort of authentication process we can use to identify and correspond with other users as we develop our communities. The Disqus Comment System allows users to engage with your site using their Twitter, Disqus, Facebook, OpenID or selected other accounts. This prevents users from having to set up new accounts while allowing for authentication. Bonus: the Reactions feature allows you to include the social component of user feedback into your comments.
6. Customize Your Community — Customize Your Community (CYC) provides some useful options for those building communities in WordPress. It allows you to re-brand the WordPress pages for registration, logging in/out, and lost passwords, as well as the user profile pages. In addition to giving your community a standardized look and feel, CYC helps with a long-standing navigational issue in WordPress: it automatically directs “subscribers” to their profiles and bypasses the WP backend entirely.
Measure on the Fly
7. Clicky — While Google Analytics provides you with a long-term perspective on your site metrics, Clicky gives you instantaneous feedback. The dashboard includes traditional site metrics, but also offers cool features, like “Spy”, which pinpoints the location of current visitors on a map. It’s an easy way to get a snapshot of your site’s current activity and, in conjunction with Google Analytics, gives you a comprehensive overview of your site’s activity.
Improve User Navigation
8. Breadcrumb NavXT — Your users aren’t exactly Hansel and Gretel, but they still may occasionally need help navigating your site, particularly if it’s content-heavy. Breadcrumbs are usually located just below a site’s primary navigation system and look something like this:
Home » Dance Music » Saint Etienne » Method of Modern Love
Breadcrumb NavXT, the successor to Breadcrumb Navigation XT, improves your site’s navigation by building this kind of virtual breadcrumb trail for your users to follow. This way, users will know where they’re located on your site. This plugin may require customization, depending on your theme; check out the Advanced Options section of the plugin’s homepage for additional instructions.
9. Advertising Manager — If you were previously using the Adsense Manager plugin, you’ve probably noticed that it hasn’t been updated in a while. That’s because it has been succeeded by Advertising Manager, which is recommended unless you are using WordPress version 2.5 or earlier. The renamed version supports a broader group of ad networks in addition to Google AdSense, such as Adify, AdBrite, and several others. It also imports your AdSense Manager settings, for users of the previous plugin.
10. WP125 — Do you prefer a more hands-on management style for your advertising? WP125 allows you to do everything from arranging the ad display so that it fits your site design to setting timelines for ads (they can be removed automatically or manually at expiration). It also provides a placeholder for empty ad space, which you can switch to your own customized version.
Do you have another plugin that’s been helpful to you in building your community? Share your favorites in the comments below.
More WordPress resources from Mashable:
Plugins: “50+ WordPress Plugins for Multimedia,” “30+ WordPress Plugins for Statistics,” “30+ WordPress Plugins for Comments,” “30+ WordPress Plugins to Get More Blog Readers,” “Top 10 WordPress Plugins to Promote Your Social Media Profiles”
Reviews: Clicky, Disqus, Facebook, Google Analytics, Google Video, Twitter, Vimeo, WordPress, YouTube