I don’t blame you if you associate WordPress social with BuddyPress. BuddyPress is by far the most popular social networking plugin for WordPress. With over a hundred thousand active installs, chances are if you’re thinking of adding a social network to your WordPress website, you’ve been recommended BuddyPress.
But then, what does all of this mean to you?
This could mean either of the two things
- BuddyPress is the best social networking plugin available for WordPress OR
- BuddyPress is the only social networking plugin available for WordPress.
So, which of the two is true?
Do Social Networking Plugins other than BuddyPress exist?
When I started learning WordPress, BuddyPress was the only social networking plugin I knew. My workmates spoke a lot about it. The fact that BuddyPress was built by Automattic, the developers of WordPress themselves, just added to its credibility. It wasn’t that I didn’t know of any other social networking plugin.
It was the fact that it didn’t matter to me, which made me quite ignorant.
Of course I soon learnt of other social networking plugins. So the answer is ‘Yes’. Social networking plugins for WordPress other than BuddyPress do exist.
Which then brings me to the next question- is BuddyPress the best social networking plugin for WordPress.
Let’s Add some Competition with WP Symposium Pro
If you’re planning on building a social network on WordPress you have to be aware of the options you have. Now, there aren’t many social networking plugins available, but the one competitor to BuddyPress, you should know of, is WP Symposium Pro.
WP Symposium Pro, built by Simon Goodchild, is BuddyPress’ closest competitor. I’m sure Simon doesn’t want it to be in BuddyPress’ shadow. WP Symposium Pro is quite a solid plugin.
So why doesn’t it get the attention it deserves?
Let’s take a look at the features both these plugins provide.
BuddyPress v/s WP Symposium Pro: The Common Ground
Both BuddyPress and WP Symposium Pro are easy to install and setup. There are features which both these social networking plugins have in common, (and which every social networking plugin should have):
- Create a Social Network: We often skip checking for the basic functionality. So what do I expect from a social networking plugin? I expect an option to create a user profile, add friends and create a group. Both of these plugins provide you an option to create and maintain a user profile. Along with this you can add custom fields as well to extend these profiles. There are options provided to add friends, and create groups as well.
- Display a Member’s Activities: A member’s activity stream which includes member’s updates are displayed by each plugin. BuddyPress displays the activities on the profile page itself, while WP Symposium Pro adds an ‘Activity’ page.
- Exchange Messages: BuddyPress and WP Symposium Pro allow the exchange of private messages between members. WP Symposium Pro provides shortcodes for the same. Shortcodes provide a flexibility because they can be placed on the user’s profile or on a different page if needed.
BuddyPress v/s WP Symposium Pro: The Differences
The differences are what make each plugin unique. There are quite a few differences, but I’ve highlighted the most important ones.
- Extensions: Undoubtedly BuddyPress has a great number of extension plugins as compared to WP Symposium Pro. To be precise, BuddyPress has over 300 extensions, while WP Symposium Pro has around 30. What does this mean to you? This means if you’re looking for a functionality to be added to your social network, BuddyPress probably already has a built-in plugin for it.
- Theme Compatibility: You’d think that BuddyPress would work with any theme. But that’s not true. If you’re planning to use BuddyPress, you’d be better off using a BuddyPress specific theme. WP Symposium Pro on the other hand is known to work seamlessly with most WordPress themes.
- Support: Thanks to Simon and Robert, WP Symposium Pro provides top-notch support. The responses are always prompt. BuddyPress has a great team to back their support efforts. But since WP Symposium Pro offers paid support as opposed to BuddyPress, it is more reliable.
- Documentation: I’d like to say that BuddyPress provides great documentation, but I can’t. Every time I’ve had to search for a hook, I’ve had to search across various sites and forums to eventually get an answer, if I ever found one. WP Symposium pro on the other hand provides good documentation. What I like are the video tutorials, which help a user through the installation and setup of the plugin.
- Price: Of course the biggest differentiator between the two is the cost. BuddyPress is entirely, 100% free. Although the WP Symposium core is free, the extension packs are priced at a starting cost of $99. And you’ll need the extension pack if you’re looking to add groups to your social network.
BuddyPress v/s WP Symposium Pro: The Verdict
We all love to take sides don’t we? And trust me, I’d love to take a side, but honestly I don’t know which one to pick. At WisdmLabs, we work a lot with BuddyPress, and provide related services too. But we always ensure that clients are aware of the options they have, and recommend a plugin most suited to their requirements. And that is what it comes down to- your requirements and priorities.
Undoubtedly BuddyPress is by far the most popular social networking plugin. In my opinion, its popularity mainly stems from the fact that it is free and built by Automattic. But is it the best? I’m not sure.
If your requirements and priorities are low cost, groups, readily available extensions to customize your site, then yes, for sure go with BuddyPress.
But if you’re willing to spend some bucks for great support, a social network which seamlessly integrates with your current theme and built in forums, my vote goes to WP Symposium Pro.
If you use either of these plugins and have an opinion, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. So do feel free to leave your comments for the benefit of fellow readers 🙂