Planning to build a social network with Drupal? A business community maybe? A team or department collaborating on an intranet or portal? Or a network grouping multiple registered users that should be able to create and edit their own content and share their knowledge? What are those key Drupal 8 modules that would help you get started?

That would help you lay the groundwork...

And there are lots of social networking apps in Drupal core and powerful third-party modules that you could leverage, but first, you need to set up your essential kit.

To give you a hand with that, we've selected:

5 modules in Drupal 8, plus a Drupal distribution, that you'll need to start a perfectly functional social networking website, with all the must-have content management features and knowledge sharing tools.
 

Before You Get Started: A Few Things to Take Care Of

First of all, let me guess the features on your must-have list:
 

  • articles
  • groups
  • photos
  • user profiles
  • groups
  • forums
     

It should feature pages with dynamic content leveraging a fine-grained access system and social media hubs, right?

Well, now that we've agreed on this, here are the preliminary steps to take before you get actually started, installing your key modules and so on:
 

  • configure your “Taxonomy” categories after you've installed the Forum module
  • set up a custom content type for Blog posts 
  • set up your thumbnail settings for the Article nodes
  • create your key user roles (admin, content author, paid subscriptions)
  • use the PathAuto module to define your URL path structure
  • define your Article nodes' thumbnail settings and remember to upload an anchor image, as well
     

1. Panels  

Panels and Views make a “power team” to rely on for setting up pages with dynamic content for your social networking site.

What makes it a must-have module to add to your essential kit when you build a social network with Drupal? 

It enables you to create custom layouts for multiple uses.

You get to use it to set up your website's homepage, one featuring multiple Views blocks with dynamic content retrieved from forums, articles, blogs...

Feel free to add a top slideshow image, to go for multiple-tiled stacked layout, including views from forum, blog and article posts...

In short: the Panels module empowers you to get as creative as possible when setting up fine-tuned layouts for your landing pages displaying dynamic content.
 

2. Views

Not only that it enables you to present content to your social network's registered users in pretty much any form you might think of — tables, lists, blocks, forum posts, galleries, reports, graphs — but it also:
 

  • enables you to display related content (e.g. display a list of the community members along with their pieces of content)
  • enables you to use contextual filters
     

It'll turn out to be one of the handiest Drupal 8 modules in your toolbox when you need to create and display dynamic content from:
 

  • forums
  • blocks
  • blogs
     

Yet, maybe one of the most common use cases for the Views module on a social networking website is that of:

Setting up a (Views) page listing all the article posts.
 

3. Blog

Another module you'll most certainly want to add to your social networking website as it:
 

  • enables both single and multi-user blogs
  • empowers authorized site members to maintain it
     

Speaking of which, blog entries can be either public or private for a specific user, depending on the role he/she's assigned with.

And it's precisely that system of user roles and corresponding permissions set up on your website that will determine whether a member can:
 

  • access the “Create Content” link or not
  • access a “My Blog” section or... not
     

You can further leverage this Blog module to add a “Recent blog posts” block to your webpages, in addition to the “Blogs” navigation link on your main navigation menu.
 

4. Profile, a Must-Have Module to Build a Social Network with Drupal

You just can't imagine that you could build a social network with Drupal without a module enabling you to create registration page fields, now can you?

Well, here it is: the Profile module.

And here are its “superpowers”:
 

  • it enables configurable user profiles
  • it enables expanded fields on the user registration page
  • it provides social network members with two different links, one for their account settings, one for their user profiles
  • it provides private profile fields (that only the admin and that specific user can access)
  • it enables you to set up different profile types for different user roles with... different permissions granted 
     

5. Group

The sky is the limit in terms of what the Group module enables you to do when you build a social network with Drupal:
 

  • it powers pretty much any scenario you can think of, from subgroups to specific per-group behavior, to access permissions...
  • it enables you to put together content collections on your website and grant access to it based on your user roles and permissions policy
  • it enables you to easily add relevant metadata to define the group & content relationships on your site
  • it enables you to control all your settings via a user-friendly admin UI; no need to write custom code to determine what each group is allowed and not allowed to do on your social network
     

Open Social

I just couldn't help it...

Even though this was supposed to be a roundup of those essential modules you'll need to build a social network with Drupal, I had to add this Drupal distribution, as well.

Open Social is that out-of-the-box solution that you can leverage to get your online user community up and running in no time.

An open source software with all the needed features and functionality already pre-built, so that you can enable members on your network to:
 

  • work together
  • share knowledge
  • organize events
     

Convenience at its best when you want to start a social networking website without worrying much about:
 

  • installing a whole collection of modules
  • doing custom work in the “backstage”. 
     

The END!

This is the minimal kit you'll need to build your online community website with Drupal.

Would you have added other essential modules to the list?

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