BuddyPress for Toastmasters: A Social Network for Your Club Website

The WordPress for Toastmasters software now integrates with BuddyPress, the social networking offshoot of WordPress. This is an optional WordPress for Toastmasters feature your club can use, or not, depending on whether it makes sense for you.

If you activate BuddyPress on your club website, your member profiles can be social profiles, and activities like signing up to give a speech can be posted to a Facebook-like social feed where they can be commented on.

Here is an example of what a profile page looks like in this scenario:

A BuddyPress profile, displaying information from participation in Toastmasters.
A BuddyPress profile, displaying information from participation in Toastmasters.

The site-wide activity feed then looks like this.

A BuddyPress activity feed, showing meeting role signup activity and comments on those items.
A BuddyPress activity feed, showing meeting role signup activity and comments on those items.

This integration is supported in the latest open source release of RSVPMaker for Toastmasters, which is the core component of the WordPress for Toastmasters software. If you are taking advantage of the club website hosting at wp4toastmasters.com and toastmost.org, BuddyPress is not turned on by default but site administrators can activate it on the Plugins tab of the administrative user interface.

If you take advantage of this feature, you may want to turn off email updates for functions such as meeting role signups. The Toastmasters club officer who contacted me asking about using BuddyPress as part of a club website said his members were interested in reducing the amount of email they received from their club. BuddyPress lets members set their own preferences for email notifications. At work, many of us are using team chat tools like Slack and Glip or social collaboration tools like Yammer and Chatter. I wrote a book called Social Collaboration for Dummies and currently collaborate with Glip parent company RingCentral, so I know these technologies well.

I actually looked at BuddyPress several years ago, when working on an early version of the software that became RSVPMaker for Toastmasters. I thought it would be cool to add a social dimension to our club website, but at the time I thought it would be too difficult to implement and integrate. Now I’m happy to have figured out how to make it happen.

Adding BuddyPress to your club website could be a good alternative to using something like a Facebook group for private collaboration among your members, and it would have the advantage of being integrated with the same site your club uses for other purposes. Giving people an additional reason to come to the website could also drive up the usage of other features, such as self-service signup for meeting roles.

On the other hand, if your club is already actively using a Facebook group, and it’s working for you, you may decide adding BuddyPress would be an unnecessary complication. As with the whole WordPress for Toastmasters solution, I suggest having a group of officers test it first to decide if it’s right for your club.

On wp4toastmasters.com and toastmost.org sites, BuddyPress is on the list of optional plugins site administrators can activate.
On wp4toastmasters.com and toastmost.org sites, BuddyPress is on the list of optional plugins site administrators can activate.

A few notes on how BuddyPress meshes with the WordPress for Toastmasters software:

  • By default, BuddyPress displays a member listing at your site’s /members/ page — the same location where I normally suggest placing the member listing generated by my Toastmasters plugin. You can change the BuddyPress settings so that content will be output on a different page. For example, on the demo site I made the BuddyPress member listing demo.wp4toastmasters.com/buddypress/ so the default RSVPMaker for Toastmasters member directory can still be found at demo.wp4toastmasters.com/members/.
  • Information drawn from the Toastmasters member profiles, including officer status and contact information, will be automatically added to the heading of a member’s BuddyPress profile.
  • Consider turning off email-sending functions on the Toastmasters settings page.
  • The social activity stream in BuddyPress can be an upgrade to the relatively primitive profile page status message in my Toastmasters software, which was intended for purposes like letting other members know you’re going to be out of town for a few weeks.
  • The WP User Avatar I recommend (and have active by default on on wp4toastmasters.com / toastmost.org sites) becomes redundant, as BuddyPress has its own method for adding profile photos.
  • If the BuddyPress integration doesn’t work quite the way you said it would, let me know what changes you would like to see. This is just the initial release and I expect many suggestions for improvement if people start using it.
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