Top 5 Essential Plug-ins for WordPress
WordPress is world renowned for being a very easy to use, completely ready out of the box CMS system; ready to launch your blog in a matter of minutes. However, there are thousands of great plug-ins that are available to download for free and for a fee. Today we are going to take a look at the top 5 must have plug-ins that are not installed with WordPress, but can greatly improve your website, especially in the area of Social Media Integration. After all, isn’t that the whole point of blogging? All of these extensions are compatible with WordPress 3.0 or higher.
This is the ultimate social media plug-in. The plug-in currently comes with Twitter, Facebook, Google +1, Google Buzz, Stumbled Upon, and Digg in a floating sidebar widget. With this plug-in, you can allow your users to share your articles to their various social accounts. The benefit for you, the website owner is that the plug-in is easy to configure. Other than configuring a few color options, adding your Twitter name, and deciding what buttons to use, there is nothing to the configuration of this button.
If you do not see the sharing/bookmarking button you are looking for, this plug-in allows for the addition of share button into the sidebar. All you have to do is paste your code into the “additional buttons” section of the GetSocial settings, and add the <div class=”sharebutton”> tag at the beginning of your code, and the </div> at the end.
Simple Facebook/Twitter Connect
Simple Facebook Connect and Simple Twitter Connect are two separate plug-ins, but they have been put together into one mention because they perform the same function. Getting connected has never been more important in the history of the World Wide Web, and these two plug-ins are a great way to allow users to connect to your website through Facebook & Twitter.
How does it work?
You build an application in the developer section of the social networking website; whether it be Twitter or Facebook, the process is roughly the same. After the application is built, the website will give you an API Key and a secret Key. You paste those keys into their appropriate fields within the Simple Facebook/Twitter Connect Settings, and now your users will be able to connect and use their profiles with your website, as long as they allow your application to access their personal information.
After you have set up and enabled the core plug-in, there are many other plug-ins that can be enabled to extend the capability of how your users can interact with your website through Facebook or Twitter. This is where the differences between Simple Facebook Connect and Simple Twitter Connect lie. The two different plug-ins come with their own set of extended plug-ins.
- SFC Login – Allows users to login using their Facebook Credentials.
- SFC Connect Widget – Allows users to login through the front end.
- SFC Comments – Allows users to leave comments using their Facebook avatar and credentials.
- SFC Activity Feed Widget – Places a widget on the page showing the latest activity on your Facebook Fanpage.
- SFC Bookmark Widget – Allows users to bookmark the page in Facebook
- SFC Chicklet – Shows your fanpage’s fan count from Facebook.
- SFC Fan Box Widget – Creates a fanbox for your sidebar.
- SFC “Find us on Facebook” Widget – Provides a “Find us on Facebook” image and link to your sidebar.
- SFC Like Button – Adds a like button to the page.
- SFC Live Stream Widget – Adds a widget showing your fanpage’s activities in real time.
- SFC Publish – Publishes your posts to Facebook.
- SFC Register – Allows users to register with their Facebook credentials.
- SFC Share Button – Allows users to share your posts in Facebook.
- SFC Upcoming Events Widget – Allows the website to display events from their Facebook Fanpage.
- SFC User Status Widget – Displays a users status in a widget.
- STC Login – – Allows users to login using their Twitter Credentials.
- STC Comments – Allows users to leave comments using their Twitter avatar and credentials.
- STC Follow Button Widget – Places a Follow button in the sidebar.
- STC Followers Widget – Shows your Twitter account’s followers in the sidebar.
- STC Linkify – Allows you to link twitter @usernames throughout the site.
- STC Publish – Publishes your posts to Twitter.
- STC Tweet Button – Puts a tweet button into your content.
- STC Tweetmeme button – Puts a tweetmeme button into your content.
- STC Twitter Dashboard – Allows you to send tweets from your WordPress Dashboard.
With all those options, there is no wonder that this plug-in makes the top 5. This plug-in definitely gets a 10 rating on technology, but a 3 on ease of use. Everything from API’s to pages to accounts needs to be set up properly to get the full use of this plug-in.
Now, one might think that a CMS with blogging roots would already have this plug-in come factory with a WordPress installation. Sadly, WordPress does not. If you load up your WordPress installation, start blogging, receive some comments, and then reply, you find that anonymous standard photo where your face should be.
The User Avatar plug-in fixes simply that problem. By installing and activating the plug-in, registered users can now directly from their profile, upload and resize a photo which they can then use as their Avatar. This is a nice touch to any professional looking blog, and adds a human aspect to the website.
After all, do you not feel more connected, and therefore more inclined to comment on a blog that was written by a real person? This plug-in seems so simple, but still has been overlooked on the core updates of WordPress. Maybe in future versions WordPress will consider implementing this feature into their core framework.
SI Captcha Anti-spam
So you have your blog up and running, post created, pages looking good, and now all these comments start coming in. However, all the comments are coming from the same place, with generic, no specific praises, and are not quite grammatically correct (to put it mildly). You are being spammed! This plug-in adds Captcha characters to your login, registration and comment forms, forcing people to input a specific set of characters before the form will be submitted. It may seem like a hassle to the user, but these days Captcha is quite common place.
It is an unfortunate necessity for sure, but this plug-in really goes a long way to maintain the integrity of your blog, and its followers. The added option of “hide Captcha from registered users” will keep the validation out of your hair, but still require guests to fill in the characters before submission. If you have or are suffering from spam, this will be a must install plug-in for you. There are other similar plug-ins, but this makes the top 5 for being the best, user friendly anti-spam plug-in.
Google Friends Connect Integration
One of the few powerful applications in Blogger is the Google Friend Connect options that come with the Google owned Company online blogging hosting and software. Google Friend Connect allows you to join the Site using your Google, Twitter, Yahoo, AIM, Netlog, or Open ID.
Allowing your readers to stay informed with updates from your website is always a good idea, and this plug-in provides a centralized way of allowing syndication of updates with all the extra features offered by Google powered software.
It really is too bad that Google Friend Connect won’t allow you to connect with a Facebook ID, but since Google is trying to rival Facebook in the social networking world, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.
With the power of these five plug-ins on your website, the site will now be connected to the extreme, and really utilize the power of social media. Whether it be Social Networking Websites, personalized avatars, or social bookmarking options, you now are ready to spread your site all over the web! Plus, a little added spam protection never hurts.
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