Using SimplePress As A One-Stop Community Builder For WordPress

Even as I write this the good people at Automattic are announcing a much-touted integration with Buddypress – a social networking plugin/addon for WordPress.  For a long while I have studied and experimented with transforming WordPress into a full-blown CMS like my much-beloved PHPNuke (now abandoned by its orginal creators) portal at freedom.constantchange.com The Name of the Rose movie full

but the solutions have been daunting or piecemeal.

There are countless articles written about how to integrate a forum into your WordPress blog, some which require WordPress MultiUser (WPMU) some that sort of work but don’t hook in well enough to the existing user base or require extensive modding and hacking to make it feel that way.

Some sites, including the famous power blogger Darren Rowse’s Digital Photography School blog use vBulletin, beautifully integrated by power-designers like Matt Brett Transsiberian video .  But vBulletin costs a grip of cash.

So after testing out a wide variety of forum solutions for WordPress, I finally stumbled upon an easy to install, free and perfectly useful plugin that sets up a phpbb style forum that hooks right in to your site’s existing registered user base and seems, by all appearances and my experiences thus far, to work beautifully.

That solution is Simple:Press.

To get it going, simply do a search for Simplepress from your Admin->Plugins->Add new search line, click install and you are good to go.

Almost.

Once the plugin has installed, you will see a new section in your Admin panel called “Forum”.  At the bottom it will offer you the option to install (again).  Click this and it will perform an extensive database update wherein it populated your databases with all the necessary tables for your new forums.

One of the beautiful things about Simple:Press is that it creates a new page for your Forums automatically.  It also creates a new field in your Posts pages so that any post can be turned into a forum topic.  Nice.

Once installed, you will want to go to your new Forum Admin section and start tweaking things to your liking.  This is actually quite important as the display, function and dynamic of your forums can be changed dramatically (and success or fail) based on your configuration.

Also take note of the Style tab where you can choose from a variety of pre-packaged color and design schemes, one of which will likely blend in with your site quite nicely.  Of course all of this can be further customized with some more advanced under-the-hood tweaking.

After working with the configuration, you will have to create the forums themselves.  This starts with creating a Group which is the top-level category, and then subsequently, the Forum itself.  A little planning is in order here, especially if you have never managed a forum.  The tendency is to make too many groups covering topics that should in fact be forums or even simply topics.

So if you think of Russian Dolls where a small version fits into a larger version, the Group is the top level, for example “General” then the Forums can be broken down into sub-categories like “Food,” “Entertainment,” “Tech,” and then you or your readers will create topics below those:

General->Food->Reviews G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra divx

Forums are an excellent way to build a community in and around you blog and keep people coming back for more.

One of the most important things to realize, however, when you build a successful community around you blog is that you are also building a brand, and that once that brand is being used by the public, it belongs to them as much as much as it does to you and with that comes greater responsibility.

For now, rest assured that Simple:Press is an easy and effective way to keep the conversation going at your blog into the wee hours, to nurture new relationships and to transform WordPress into a truly useful content management system, and more importantly, a community.

Download Simple:Press Forum for WordPress now.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com.  Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com