WordPress is a fantastically versatile blogging platform. It is fully capable of not only providing everything you need in a blog but can be pushed even further to provide everything you need in a website, CMS, social network and all-in-one convection oven. Okay, maybe that last one was pushing it.
There are a lot of options available to you if you are looking to add some social media aspects to WordPress blog or further extend the capabilities of WordPress as a social network. It is worth mentioning that the makers of WordPress have introduced a plugin for WPMU called BuddyPress which is geared towards building a social network with WordPress. But WordPress MU requires dedicated hosting and not all of us can afford that.
If you want your users to register to post comments you may have an easier time getting users to sign up with an existing OpenID. OpenID is a universal authentication protocol that you can obtain from many major providers like WordPress.com and Yahoo. This plugin allows users to login with an OpenID to manage the blog or simply post a comment. The plugin also allows you to use your own WordPress blog as an OpenID provider so you can use it for other OpenID enabled sites.
This is a great little plugin for adding AJAX polls to your blog posts or sidebar. Polls are a simple way to encourage user interaction and keep your site looking fresh. Polls also encourage your visitors to be pro-active as it takes a second to vote and they are more likely to leave a comment afterward. WP-Polls is great because your readers can vote and view results without having to reload the page.
This a new blogging trend that can be seen across a lot of current WordPress blogs. User-submitted news items with a short description and a link are a great way of encouraging social interaction and keeping your content fresh. FV Community news allows users to submit news items from a form on your sidebar which you can moderate in wp-admin.
A lot of WordPress bloggers use the Recent comments widget to encourage commenting. When a visitor sees that they will get a spot on the sitewide sidebar just for leaving a comment they are more likely to want to leave one. Top Commentators Widget takes this strategy a step further by giving text link spots to the visitors who leave the most comments. This encourages your readers not only to leave a comment, but to return and leave more comments regularly.
There are several ways you can increase the social interaction on your blog without any plugins. Posting shout-out posts once a month that mention your top commenters, hold a contest and give a prize away to the top contributors or even using WordPress built-in recent comments widget. The key to building interaction is making your readers feel that they are special and their contribution matters.
What are some plugins or methods you have used that build user interaction? How have you made your WordPress blog more like a social network?