8 Great Social Networking CMS

Global social media finally hit the 1 Billion user mark in 2012 – and there have been no signs of slowed growth since. As they compete, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many others are slowly but surely bringing social networking to every corner of the earth.

As a result of such exponential growth, the number of content management systems dedicated to building social networking websites has greatly increased over the years. Thanks to their ever-growing number, some good old fashioned competition has spurred many social networking CMS into providing professional platforms of the highest quality. Yet at the same time, scores of poor CMS have also flooded through, hoping to nibble on a slice of the gigantic social networking pie.

To help un-blur the lines between the two groups, we have compiled 8 of the very best social networking CMS which allow you to build a well structured, professional social networking website.

As a bonus, we've also got a new post we published called “How to Create a Social Network” that gives you full step by step instructions on the process.

1. Pligg

The Pligg content management system was designed from the ground up to manage a website with an unlimited number of authors and contributors. In essence, all participating users are in control of the website’s content. This is in contrast to the standard website structure, where only a set few managerial or administrative members control core content.

Pligg's open-source CMS is incredibly easy to use and manage, and can easily help power social networks and other interactive communites. There are plenty of templates to choose from, along with a plethora of plugins and extensions. The software encourages visitors to register on your website so that they can submit their content and connect with other users.

The unique user driven CMS relies on independent author contributions and participation. Originally, Pligg began as a simple CMS which allowed registered users to submit, comment and vote on news stories – which, to this day, remains a key feature. Amongst other social interactions, users can vote on articles and publications that interest them, and those with most votes eventually appear on the homepage of the Pligg powered website.

Try Pligg.

2. BuddyPress

As WordPress continues to cruise past its competition year on year, the team behind the CMS giant have also released BuddyPress, a social networking equivalent to their mainstream powerhouse platform.

BuddyPress carries the same high quality structure and presentation which WordPress is famous for. It's free, open-source and allows you to customize your social networking website to no end. Features such as comprehensive personal profiles, friend connections, discussion boards, private messaging and so on, are all implemented into the foundations of BuddyPress' comprehensive CMS. Powerful extensions and plugins are on hand to help you tweak even further.

If you're aiming to add your social networking platform on to an existing WordPress website, BuddyPress is of course the natural choice. Seamless integration with WordPress is easy to achieve, making it the ultimate social extension.

Try BuddyPress.

3. Elgg

Elgg is a powerful social networking platform capable of building all kinds of social environments. The robust CMS is easy to use, comes packed with a multitude of features, and offers added functionality through various Elgg plugins.

Developing a powerful, yet simple social networking platform is easy with this CMS. Elgg uses and operates on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) making it perfect for developers who know exactly what they're doing, and know exactly what they want. Definitely one for the web development experts to ponder over.

A strong, loyal fan base helps prop us Elgg's open-source CMS. It's not strictly for building social networking websites, as Elgg has other, less community based uses. The World Bank website for example, runs entirely on Elgg. Check out our comprehensive review of Elgg.

Try Elgg.

4. Dolphin

When it comes to comprehensiveness, Dolphin can't be faulted. With features like user video chat, membership, discussion forums, file sharing, user specific RSS feeds, and more, Dolphin is capable of building social networks with incredible depth.

Dolphin implements Durpal-esque “modules” which allow you to fully customize the way your social networking website will look, feel and function. Standard modules can be used, as well as the thousands of extra third-party variables found on the BoonEx market.

A wide variety of templates, paired with the ability to create your own, makes Dolphin extremely customizable. Facebook integration, built-in mass mailers and site statistics make Dolphin a pretty difficult social networking CMS to beat. Check out our in-depth review of Dolphin.

Try Dolphin.

5. Oxwall


As the winner of our 2012 Peoples Choice Award for Best Social Networking Solution, Oxwall is a pretty impressive and appealing social networking CMS, and one that is difficult to ignore. It offers a clean, professional feel to both admins via the CMS, and to users via crisply presented templates.

Oxwall is an incredibly flexible and easy to use PHP/MySQL social networking software platform, capable of building fertile online communities. Various plugins available to Oxwall users help personalise and add social functionality to your website. The open-source CMS is great for both small-scale social networking, as well as larger, more executive style websites.

Photo and video sharing, user blogging, advertisement management and file sharing between friends, are just some of the features that make Oxwall a CMS which is to be seriously considered amongst its rivals.

Try Oxwall.

6. phpFox


Much like Facebook and LinkedIn, phpFox is able to create an online community based on social profiles and content sharing. With built-in features such as pages and groups, discussion boards, Polls, Instant messaging and so, on, you can create your own, comprehensive social network with ease. It's no surprise then, that phpFox was the CMSCritic choice for best Social Networking Software for 2013.

PhpFox offers a variety of themes, along with a WYSIWYG editor to make life simple when it comes to building and designing your social network. Monetization through advertisements is a prominent feature, along with the extensive branding and marketing options.

Numerous phpFox extensions allow you to fully personalise and refine your social networking site, meaning that achieving a unique, aesthetically appealing interface is never too difficult. Check out our review of phpFox.

Try PHPFox.

7. SocialEngine


SocialEngine is the first choice for many people when it comes to constructing a professional social networking website. It integrates directly with major social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Your members can sign up to your site with their social accounts, bringing their friends along with them. Additionally, content from your website can be shared by users via their social networks, increasing your site's public visibility.

You may even customize the way your users vote, like, comment and discuss content within your website. Such deeply customizable features are hard to find elsewhere.

Run on Amazon Cloud servers, SocialEngine is a powerful social network platform with a huge array of extensions, add-ons and features. Unlike other social platforms, SocialEngine gives you complete HTML & CSS access with a convenient layout editor, so your website can look totally unique. Check out our review of SocialEngine.

Try SocialEngine.

8. Ning


Using Ning, you will be able to engage and communicate with your users on a whole new level. Thanks to a built-in email broadcast functionality for HTML newsletters, paired with beautifully presented content and interfaces, Ning is all about building communities in style.

Ning’s Social Sign-In feature makes it easy for new members to sign-up to your social network using their accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and others. Naturally, such integration can only do good for the publicity of your website.

Your users can easily set up profiles and blogs of their own, engaging with others via comments and discussion boards. All the while, core content published by you is also presented in a way which is compelling.

Try Ning.

So there you have it. The 8 social networking CMS listed above each offer their own unique features, plugins and community building extras. Some of them are tailored for seasoned web development experts, whilst others cater for the less code-savvy from amongst us.

Don't forget that when you go to set up your own social network, you'll need a reliable web hosting company. We recommend Arvixe. They are currently offering great discounts to our readers, so be sure to take advantage of the offer before it expires. Click here to get cheap, reliable hosting from Arvixe.

Yet, all of them offer sound, proven social networking structures which are capable of real growth. If you're looking to build a social networking website, you need not look any further than this list of social networking CMS.