Having a WordPress site is a great way to present your ideas with the outside world. However, there comes a time when this one-way communication is insufficient for your organization’s needs. bbPress is an excellent tool to engage your user community in a variety of ways.
bbPress for Clubs and Nonprofits
bbPress forums are ideal for clubs and nonprofits to communicate among themselves and share valuable ideas. For example, an outing club is planning a hike for the upcoming weekend and would like to coordinate logistics. Normally this interaction would take place either via email, which becomes very cumbersome if more than two participants are involved, or on a social media platform such as Facebook, where not all members may be active. With bbPress, a user can create a new topic in the “Outings” forum, and this new topic will be created on the site and a notification email will be sent to all users subscribed to the forum. Users can then go to the bbPress site to read and write new posts. Some added benefits of active forums includes encouraging more users to become part of the site, and increasing site Search Engine Optimization (SEO) due to additional content relevant to your site’s area of expertise.
bbPress has a wide range of features that make it flexible for numerous situations. For example, you may want to have differing levels of access for reading posts and creating new posts, and allowing only certain users to create forum topics while allowing everyone to reply to the topic. Furthermore, bbPress is a plugin that is actively maintained by core WordPress staff, so it integrates very well into almost any WordPress site. There are numerous third party plugins that further extend the capabilities of bbPress.
bbPress for Businesses
bbPress can be much more than an internal dialog, it can be used to connect with customers and even provide a source of income. For example, you may have a WooCommerce shop that sells some new board games. A bbPress forum can be set up to answer questions from the user community, and allow the user community to communicate among themselves about gaming strategy, driving more traffic to the site and, hopefully, more purchases. The forum can be set up to allow only verified purchasers to make forum posts to maintain the integrity of the postings.
The ability of bbPress to integrate with other popular WordPress plugins provides numerous opportunities to be creative. One common use is to integrate with the Paid Memberships Pro plugin in order to create a “pay gate” for the forum. For example, if you provide remote desktop support for a certain operating system, you can allow users access to your tech solution forum posts (either to ask questions to you directly or have access to archives) to those who have signed up for an annual subscription to your site via Paid Memberships Pro. Furthermore, bbPress can be configured such that only certain membership levels have access to certain forums, such as a bronze level forum for interaction with users and a gold level forum for interaction with trained experts. bbPress is nearly as limitless as your creativity.
A Solid and Flexible Free Plugin
As with the case with many WordPress plugins, bbPress is absolutely free to start. However, for many users bbPress with have some limitations out of the box. Probably the most obvious drawback is that it has a very plain, basic look on WordPress themes. Most users will likely either want to have an experienced developer modify the look and feel of the site to make the bbPress interface more appealing, or perhaps use a third party theme built expressly with bbPress in mind.
Another out of the box issues is that bbPress has no inherent ability to allow users to reply to forum notification emails by replying to the email and creating a new post. We have been able to set this up, but it is a fairly complex process involving third party mail handling services and should be attempted by experiences developers only.
With these drawbacks in mind, bbPress is a solid tool that can greatly enhance a WordPress site, transforming it from a one-way street to a busy highway of information.