BuddyBoss is our top pick for online community software, hands down.
People are tired of Facebook, that’s “boomer shit”.
People are fully into supporting creators they love. Subscribing to influencer content has been normalized by Patreon, OnlyFans, SubStack, Subscribestar, and YouTube, among countless others.
Yes, there is room for your online community.
Online censorship and algorithm favoritism to the biggest ad spenders have blown trust in Big Tech wide open, and now is the time to unleash your own “product” while minimizing risk of shadow banning, censorship, getting canceled by nefarious malcontent types, or having ads from your competition overlaid on your own content.
The time is now to own the racecourse. Putting all your eggs in Big Tech leaves you to be ruled in your own kingdom. A serf leaving their fortune on the table.
We’ve built out entire learning platforms + community using BuddyBoss in conjunction with LearnDash integration (in essence, a Udemy/Facebook alternative, but with much more control over user data and marketing to existing customers –and simply just better looking, more user-friendly, and high on curb appeal).
Leverage our experience as six figure bloggers in your purchase decision –keep reading. It isn’t all roses, we had some headaches we’ll discuss as well.
While I’m talking, this link will open up the BuddyBoss website in a new tab so you can poke around at the same time.
BuddyBoss is solid, scaleable, and futureproof. You can build it into an existing WordPress website, or host it standalone on a subdomain or unique URL.
But are our reasons for choosing BuddyBoss the same as your reasons?
Is the platform compelling enough for you to pull the trigger?
In this BuddyBoss review we will take a granular look at the platform and run through its most commonly relied upon features, in addition to some caveats and f**ckery we encountered.
Table of Contents
Welcome to BuddyBoss
If you’re reading this you already understand that online communities offer an excellent platform for brands to foster relationships with their customers, build loyalty, and increase customer engagement.
Having your own online community gives you a direct line to your audience, and allows you to provide value worth paying for.
The world is a lonely place these days. People don’t just dig your content, they appreciate getting closer to the other like-minded people that appreciate your content, too. Put them together in the same room and you’re better for it –and can capitalize on it.
Your fans are your product, too.
Owning your own platform is also a way to divert your fans and customers from Big Tech, into your own systems, funnels, et al.
For instance, if you have a YouTube channel or large social media following, you’re leaving a lot of ad revenue and sponsorship potential on the table if you don’t build out your own community.
With most Big Tech platforms you either can’t legally charge for access (according to Facebook TOS), or if you can, the service provider like YouTube, Patreon, Locals, SubscribeStar and others take a hefty cut off your membership fees, some haircuts are larger than others.
An active community will create a sense of belonging –making members feel motivated and look forward to time spent engaging with like-minded people you’ve brought together.
Over time, your online community will become an asset.
A really big asset.
There are metrics to determine a dollar value of your website and/or online community from Empire Flippers if you ever choose to cash out and sell your website (even without a community at the time, our site was worth $550k USD at last inquiry –imagine what we’d get with one, should we ever sell).
A couple years’ work and you could buy a f***ing house. We opted not to sell, steady income was too good, and frankly, there’s no cost/benefit analysis in the world that would make me trade the relationship I have with so many awesome people –but having the option is pretty rad. I could probably get investors or a bank loan with that kind of valuation.
Who Owns Your Business?
What about all that data your community creates? Can you pack it up and leave the platform it’s on if the company who built the community software you’re using doesn’t treat you right? Can you take away your data and plug it in on another platform?
With BuddyBoss you can because you have the full database file(s) on your own server. And if you left BuddyBoss behind I can’t think of a single community platform that would be unwilling to help you migrate.
Like I said, you’re futureproof.
You absolutely can’t ignore the question of ‘who owns your business’ if you’re about to spend the blood, sweat, tears, time, and money it takes to nurture a thriving community.
For example; when I sell books on Amazon, I never get direct contact with my customers, I don’t get their emails, and I can’t send marketing emails to them through my own channels –I can only engage with Amazon. Amazon owns the relationship to my users. I don’t even know who bought my book.
Facebook Will Extract Value From Your Audience (and You)
If you start an online community on Facebook, like Amazon, you get member Facebook profiles, but not their email. And they will not help you migrate to a paid solution elsewhere, because that isn’t their MO.
You’re locked into the Facebook ecosystem to engage with your audience. If you decide to start your own platform later, Facebook will not help you migrate your data –you’d be starting over from scratch.
And heaven forbid you get canceled like I did. I can’t have a Facebook account because I am led to believe I have unpopular opinions on a specifically controversial kind of “Story Hour” we’ve been hearing a lot about in recent years. Reported by an actual pink-haired “they/them” from Hamilton, Ontario enough times ..and so went our Hobo with a Laptop Facebook page back in 2017. Facebook didn’t care about our obscene follower count.
Funny enough, losing our Facebook page also didn’t affect our income, but I digress –they aren’t as important as one might think.
Facebook is free, as in beer. You might get to drink for free but it’s probably Bud Light and you’ll feel like crap afterward –Facebook is a firehose; too many people, too fast, no measure of quality, no direct contact, and you can lose it all if you make a single enemy, or one follower says the wrong thing.
It only takes a single Karen to get canceled these days.
When you run a community on Facebook, you’re also on a shelf with other, possibly competing communities, too. Like a product on Amazon. People might search for you, then be lured away by related options in the margins.
Let’s be real; Facebook is the equivalent of the cheap seats at the local sportsball game –people who aren’t serious and want everything for free, and to their liking –or they’ll complain to a hall monitor.
Facebook attracts high maintenance, low reward kinda’ people. Tire kickers. The kind of people who won’t pay a subscription fee.
How you start your online community is everything.
While there are a multitude of community platforms available, I’m only ever going to review the best community platform for WordPress—BuddyBoss. Anything else is a waste of time, in my very experienced opinion.
Most people buying an Apple computer don’t know it runs on a modified flavour of Debian Linux, a free and open source operating system at its roots.
BuddyBoss took the Apple route; they took very high quality pre-existing open source technology and built it out, improved upon it like Apple improved on Debian in the sleekest of ways, and the final result is something that’s easy to use, incredibly intuitive, beautiful af, and best of all –your data is all yours.
No Silicon Valley oligarch in your pockets, and since it ‘lives’ on your own server, data and all, you’re cancel-proof. Take that, Jess, err, Karen!
BuddyBoss also has a look and feel that’s premium –more premium than present-day Facebook, in my opinion.
Now let’s take a deeper look at BuddyBoss, and then I’ll talk about the BuddyBoss server I run my communities on.
What is BuddyBoss?
BuddyBoss is a WordPress plugin and theme that work together to allow you to create communities, groups, and social networking sites with plugins to integrate courses –with all the bells and whistles.
Whether you want to create a community for your brand, engage with employees in internal groups on a company intranet, or start a membership site, BuddyBoss is your go-to platform.
The platform offers many features and the flexibility to create an incredibly robust social networking site.
While you can use any platform theme, I recommend sticking to the BuddyBoss theme for the best results. It’s slick, sophisticated, and highly configurable like Apple products, you won’t be disappointed.
And feeling like Apple matters for a lot of people, even women in the dating game —my friend got dumped on a first date because he had an Android. People like this exist, and their subscriptions add up.
If you use a different theme for your WordPress site like we do, you can simply host your BuddyBoss install on a subdomain like https://community.yourwebsite.com.
Down the line you can explore seamless integration, multisite functionality, etc.
Why You Must Consider BuddyBoss
If there’s a feature or function you’re looking for, it’s safe to assume BuddyBoss has it for your upcoming online community business.
I was delighted that as I got more experienced and my scope got more rigid and narrow, I discovered BuddyBoss already thought of it and had the required functionality already ready to go.
I’ll try to hit a few nails on the head below, but really, you should try their demo. Otherwise I’m just spraying you with features and benefits and a whole bunch of blablabla.
Try their demo for yourself here. Open it up now and bookmark it for later.
- Proper member profiles, totally customisable, you choose what fields they have, if they can upload photos or video, how many, etc.
- Facebook-style activity feed, a norm in modern communities –this feature is one area BuddyBoss extremely shines
- Hide groups based on payment tiers, or granular privacy settings you define
- In-community purchases, for courses with LearnDash, digital downloads, etc.
- Email marketing functions, notification emails to increase engagement, etc.
- “Gamify” the experience like Reddit does with your own version of ‘karma’, create achievements to unlock, etc.
- TranslatePress is just one way to make your community multilingual, but I don’t want to start listing off the massive list of possible integrations (like WooCommerce, Wishlist! Member, Elementor, GamiPress, and many more).
- Sell advertising with Google, Ezoic, Mediavine, or one-offs you sell yourself, there’s some nice ad management options
- Payment integrations are all possible, and not complicated to setup –integrates with any payment processor worth integrating with, like Stripe, PayPal, et al.
- There’s a large, very large community behind BuddyBoss that goes beyond the parent company; open source plugins work, but there are also companies that specialise in BuddyBoss as their main line of business; support is a stone’s throw away
- BuddyBoss offers an app (web wrapper) for mobile devices, which I do not recommend for new communities –it’s expensive as f***. Instead, do the whole shortcut on the phone/tablet launcher home screen thing, and blammo; the web version is too fast and mobile-friendly to discount this as a pillar mobile option, you do not need to even consider their app if you’re just starting out; save the app for when you have a million kajillion users, mobile browsing to a BuddyBoss community is absolutely great, try the demo on their site if you’re skeptical –apps are good for offline stuff, community sites are not offline
- I only recommend Cloudways as a host, and maybe Linode but I haven’t tried it out for BuddyBoss myself yet –but I will soon; their pay structure is adhoc, cheap, you pay for what you use, don’t pay for anything you don’t. Highly configurable, more on that later in the article
Alright Now Let’s Go Long Form, With Testimonials From TrustPilot
..and see what my paid ghost writer has to say about the platform!
Many people lack the technical skills to set up and manage a fully functioning, sexy-looking, and engaging community or social networking platform.
Some assume setting up a platform like BuddyBoss is too hard, so they opt for a prefabricated “all in one” that has brand cuffs, limitations, and fees per user.
That’s just gross.
Well, that’s a misconception; setting up BuddyBuss is easy and we aren’t the only ones who think so.
“BuddyBoss is great! I started with zero experience with WP or coding, and now I manage an online community that works like a charm. Perhaps a bit complex at first, there are so many options and possible plugins to integrate…. but this means that there are literally no boundaries to what you can achieve. Many many thanks to the GREAT tech support, very patient with me as a newbie. They always gave prompt and quick solutions to all my issues. I feel I got 100X VALUE back for what I paid. Thanks again.”
–Flirtian, on TrustPilot
Creating courses as a new revenue stream inside a unified information hub where people can come together to discuss topics freely, while not being tempted to opt for your competitor instead of you, like on Facebook –BuddyBoss offers flexibility to professionals and businesses of all sizes.
Even lowly bloggers like myself. I built my first online community shortly before I became a six figure blogger. An online community is par for the course.
Next up, let’s look at some of the most compelling features of BuddyBoss:
1. Customizable Member Profiles
BuddyBoss consists of easy-to-customize member profiles a la Facebook, making it hassle-free for the members to share their personal information or data. As in, become emotionally attached to your community.
You can make some profile fields mandatory, make up your own unique profile fields, or remove standard profile fields altogether (a ‘gender’ field seems like a minefield these days –you could ditch it unless you know the 1,400 flavours of Baskin Robbins).
You can also auto-assign custom WP roles to member types to gain better control based on criteria you choose, like their payment tier, the unique link they used to sign up (I used Wishlist! Member for some of this functionality, etc).
Your free members can be put in a freebie sandbox with limited access to groups and course resources whereas paid members can see the entire gamut. You can assign some members special administration or moderation access, and so on –you’ve got granular control over member types and individual users themselves.
Yeah, you’re basically a god.
Free and paid courses, as well as groups, can be unlocked after various achievements or payment upgrades are completed.
“BuddyBoss is really awesome platform. The fact that they are putting so much efforts to make their product as near perfection as possible says a lot.
Their support is always there when you need them. I for myself can say that I made many mistakes but learned great deal from my mistakes and BB support has been always there to help out.
BB is not just any premium plugin but the very best. You can say that BB is like Apple they are providing only the best possible features, highly stable, optimised and super premium way ahead of any competition.
That’s why I really love and appreciate these guys.”
–Samir, on TrustPilot
2. Conversational-Style Activity Feed
If you prefer a bidirectional conversation activity feed, BuddyBoss will not disappoint –it’s like Facebook before it started sucking (there’s no algorithm hiding updates or imposing updates on users, you and users choose what they see).
Its activity feed lets your members write on any fellow member’s feed and like each other’s social posts. In addition, the users can mention other community users through @username on the site, sending a notification to alert the mentioned user about the comment.
The conversation-style online communities are beloved by over 36% of users (probably more today). They believe that it offers them a platform to have immersive and meaningful communication fuss-free.
Your members can also upload photos (and videos depending on your server, preferences) and arrange them into dedicated albums.
Another key aspect of the BuddyBoss activity feed is that it lets you create & organize site-wide community events for all members, send out messages to all users, or specific user types, tiers, groups, etc.
You have full control, and the settings to administer these changes are incredibly simplified, making it the best online community platform hands down. Everything is in plain English (with translations also available, if English isn’t your preference).
3. Public, Private, and Hidden Groups
BuddyBoss enables you to create groups per your preferences within its social atmosphere. However, you can keep these social groups open for all, private, or hidden for superior security and regulation.
Ie. You can have a mods-only group where they can discuss moderation challenges you don’t want general users to see.
You can also pick organizers with a particular group to keep a check on post activity and add new users to the group.
From entrepreneurs to artists and introverts to public speakers, BuddyBoss’ social groups are for everyone to unite and be heard. You can leverage the power of connection to create expressive spaces and discover new topics and conversations with like-minded individuals.
You can also promote the content of a specific niche through tags to attract the target audience for extensive brand visibility.
4. Email Marketing
BuddyBoss lets you do organic marketing for your social network and its offering with pre-integrated email invite functionality.
As in, users can invite other users within your online community, via email. They don’t have to leave the community to invite people who are not yet in your community, they aren’t prompted to open their email app –it’s all inside YOUR community. A VERY, VERY BIG DEAL –This is how you go viral.
You or users can send email invitations YOU have prewritten to your social community’s registered members BFFs. This can be done simply from the profile page by clicking the “email invite” button. It will load a prefab message you wrote yourself.
Do you know why this feature is crucial for digital-age marketing? Around 72% of people favor communications through email, making this feature a must-have for businesses or niche professionals wanting to expand their market reach.
5. Dank & Bootylicious Customization Options
It’s no news that people enjoy visually appealing and easily navigable websites. BuddyBoss allows you to customize your theme to align it with your business and community needs.
For example, you can alter fonts, group cover photos, and colors to enhance the aesthetics of your page, making it not look like crap –while not breaking the stylesheet BuddyBoss uses to make the site look tight.
Apart from that, you can pick the theme layout, header & footer to make your online community site a breeze to navigate for its members. The predefined layouts are great, I didn’t have to create my own.
I started my first community in 3 days from start to finish because of how easy it was. Maybe 12 hours of actual work, tinkering away.
6. Integrations Compatible with BuddyBoss
BuddyBoss allows you to integrate it with your preferred plugins and services for a one-of-a-kind experience. Here are a few of them for your reference:
- GamiPress: Engagement is an indispensable aspect of online communities. BuddyBoss helps boost member retention through gamification features enabled through the GamiPress plugin integration.
You can either award or take away points from community members owing to any particular action, such as commenting on social posts. Further, members are entitled to earn badges displayed on their respective profiles. BuddyPress aids you in building a highly-interactive virtual space that encourages members to engage with the community.
- WooCommerce: With BuddyBoss, you can sell access to your online community members using a hassle-free integration with WooCommerce. We added Wishlist! Member on top to make it extra spectacular.
Your members may have to pay a one-time membership fee to join the community. However, you can also generate continuing revenue with monthly subscription models. Likewise, you can create exclusive content available only to paid members.
- AppBoss: The mobile app feature is relevant for members who like to engage with the community on the go, using their smartphones and tablets. With AppBoss integration, you can introduce a mobile app using BuddyBoss.
- TranslatePress: Does building a multilingual community seem like a far-fetched dream to you? Worry not, as BuddyBoss comprises integration with a multilingual plugin named TranslatePress. It also lets you translate the complete website, such as page builders, forms, and output from shortcodes.
- Learndash: Learndash is a learning management system (LMS) by WordPress, trusted by leading enterprises, training organizations, top universities, and entrepreneurs. You can integrate BuddyBoss with Learndash to create online courses. On average, accomplished course creators earn over $1k to $10k monthly.
- Elementor: You can integrate BuddyBoss with Elementor page builder to create launch pages. This free page builder lets you create aesthetically-pleasing websites in WordPress swiftly and straightforwardly.
- Printful: You could integrate Printful (which also uses WooCommerce) and sell t-shirts or other print-on-demand merch like mugs, art prints and more that they create and ship to order on your behalf, as in, no stock overhead, no packing orders yourself, totally integrated, site visitors don’t leave your site to go to another one to make a purchase, you get their purchase history under their single account.
And that’s just off the top of my head. You can find a full feature list here.
Pros and Cons of BuddyBoss
Indeed, BuddyBoss offers tons of features for online community entrepreneurs.
Yet, like any other online community platform, it has shortcomings too. To help determine whether it is the ideal plugin for your unique requirements, here is an overview of BuddyBoss’ pros and cons below:
Pros of BuddyBoss:
- BuddyBoss provides all the integrations you’ll ever need alongside themes and plugins for a fully-functional, compelling community website.
- Most functionalities of BuddyBoss are accessible with the base plugin; only a few features need a premium version upgrade (ie. LearnDash).
- With an intuitive front-end editor, you can instantly preview and make changes to your site.
- You can add upsells right inside your community, like, say, for a course or other digital asset.
- You DO NOT NEED AN APP, but they offer a custom app setup license if you have a high value community –otherwise you do what we did; you turn a browser shortcut into a button on your mobile home screen. The mobile browser version of the community works, looks, and feels just like an app. It’s incredibly solid.
- If you build out your community on WordPress you have hundreds of thousands of integration potentials; like an integrated Printful shop for selling merch without inventory.
Cons of BuddyBoss:
- BuddyBoss may come with a bunch of bells and whistles, which can be overwhelming for new users. When in doubt, turn off the feature –only use what you need –this isn’t really a con per se, it just means it’s neatly scalable and can grow with you.
- It is not recommended that you use “beginner” website hosting with BuddyBoss –we use Cloudways for our hosting and it’s faster, more reliable, and has more available resources than shared hosts like BlueHost or Siteground. With Cloudways we only pay for metered bandwidth and resources used. You’ll need more RAM on your server because caching kinda’ breaks the community –you shouldn’t cache “live” content. Cloudways can predict your costs as you build out your server requirements, so you aren’t scared silly at billing time.
My WORST EXPERIENCE with BuddyBoss
My worst experience with BuddyBoss ain’t no small problem.
One really bad experience I had with BuddyBoss that forced an update for ALL BuddyBoss customers once fixed (within hours), was an SQL attack I did myself, to myself, without knowing it. I’d be a shill for not mentioning it, so here we go.
I write messages and I add a lot of double dashes –like this. I wrote a message to all users of a group with a double dash, and some how, my entire inbox got shared with many users. It was a weird random glitch that I suffered, but one that all BuddyBoss customers benefited from shortly after because I’m the only one it ever happened to that I know of. And a fix was pushed to the platform as a whole before morning.
Yup, could have been bad, because I had friends I speak very openly with on that particular community site. Could have been life altering, reputation-killing.
I got the rants, err, tech support threads to prove it, but I digress.
This issue is 4 years’ “water under the bridge” as in 2020, it’s really far back in the rear view mirror. Support was awesome, they handled my situation very quickly, professionally, and I locked my community for mere hours while the issue was resolved. When they fixed it, they pushed a fix for all BuddyBoss customers, and the rest is history. It’s the only WTF issue I ever encountered. I felt sick.
It’s been years since this happened. I fully trust BuddyBoss today or I wouldn’t be writing this. But hot damn, it could have been devastating. Although it wasn’t, and by now, all those kind of glitches are no longer a thing –but I had to mention it or I wouldn’t be fully transparent. And transparency is a thing I value.
Yes, I get a kickback if you purchase BuddyBoss, but I’d be damned if I didn’t tell you my worst experience. Years on, I am looking to make a new community for Hobo specifically, with BuddyBoss, because I trust them, so sign up to my mailing list for an invite –first users get in free for at least a year. It’ll be a great way to connect with like-minded people while taking the best community platform online for a test drive.
Hosting a live online community requires stronger hosting, and less caching.
If a site is cached, ideal for a blog, it stores content in RAM on the server because it doesn’t change much.
But an online community needs a server to be on it’s toes, caching would suppress live updates from users. Without caching, you need a better server.
That’s why we use Cloudways. They’re on the BuddyBoss list of trusted vendors, too.
BuddyBoss offers a reasonable fee for medium to small-scale businesses, subject to change of course. With its three-tier pricing, it offers competitive pricing. Here are its three annual pricing models alongside their features:
- $228/year: License for 1 site, priority support for 1 year, fully-featured themes and plugins, and continual updates for 1 year
- $288/year: License for 5 sites, priority support for 1 year, fully-featured themes and plugins, and continual updates for 1 year.
- $388 per year: License for 10 sites, priority support for 1 year, fully-featured themes and plugins, and continual updates for 1 year.
Add that up. It’s cheaper, or on par with competing locked-down platforms where you have no control over your data. And you get control over your client relationships, unlike most proprietary options.
Because you know Facebook is making more than $228 per year in ad revenue on all your community members if you use their platform. Run ads, and you could make 10x the cost of your BuddyBoss license. Simple maths.
Look at it that way, and BuddyBoss pays for itself and then some.
Why is it cheaper than other managed and paid solutions? You aren’t charged per user. Grow! Grow! Grow! Don’t be penalized for your success!
Plugin and feature updates are more than regular, you should check out their road map. Where they’ve been, where they’re going, and note the “submit idea” button on the upper right –they’re democratic when it comes to feature updates and fixes.
They love good ideas regardless of whether you’re a big or small player. They listened to me when I had a mere 300 users.
As mentioned, I had issues with the platform on deployment for a project in 2020 and they were quick to respond and push fixes to the entire platform for all BuddyBoss users, globally, based on my unique situation.
And you’re censorship proof if you shit the bed with your personal account on a social network. Also, like I did 😉
Working with BuddyBoss is like having an in-house development team working to your benefit. It comes with your license.
Own the racecourse where you’re gonna’ drive your “car” and build your livelihood. You can only trust yourself these days. Nobody cares about your business like you do.
Aside from the annual pricing models mentioned above, you can also opt for BuddyBoss’ complete-service app solution costing $179 monthly. Every purchase arrives with a 100% money-back guarantee valid for 14 days from the date of purchase.
Is BuddyBoss worth the hype?
BuddyBoss is like a match made in capitalist heaven for the ones requiring an intuitive and user-oriented solution for building and managing online communities.
It is fair and balanced in its pricing, and it delivers for users in ways even Facebook can’t.
Even if you aren’t in it for the money, you can’t debate the feature list, it kicks the most ass. I’ve tried dozens of platforms, nothing comes close.
Its integration between its theme and plugin unifies and streamlines all features and their constituents under one platform.
So if you are looking for the most straightforward way to create scalable social networking sites, BuddyBoss’ platform will be your best bet.
We want this post to reflect more than our own experience with BuddyBoss –tell us about yours in the comments.
If you’ve got any questions, we will do our best to answer them. Either here, or we’ll make a full podcast about it. Or many podcasts about it, the road is long.
Wanna’ debate it? Leave me a voicemail if you want to debate the awesomeness of BuddyBoss live, on a podcast. I’m game. I put my mouth where my money is 😉
That’s a wrap, ladies and gentleman and all the other pronouns.
What say you? You dig?