Sometimes having a blog and promoting your content across the internet isn’t always enough. By nature human beings are inquisitive, curious creatures. We seek out knowledge wherever we can find it and often that information is of the personal kind.
What is that person really like? What are their interests? What do they do in their spare time? These are all questions we secretly ask ourselves when reading our favorite blogs. We want to know the person behind the pen-name and so as authors, bloggers and businesses it makes sense to give our readers that information.
I’m not talking about addresses and bank details here, that would be irresponsible. I’m talking about personality and that individual touch that keeps people coming back for more. That’s the stuff that will differentiate you from every other blogger out there – that willingness to provide insight and I’ve got just the plugin that will help you achieve that.
Flow Flow: Social Grids For WordPress
The Flow Flow Social plugin is a feature-rich tool enabling you to showcase your social streams on any WordPress website. By placing a simple shortcode in a page or sidebar, it displays social updates in a card-like format for easy viewing.
Flow Flow works with all of the main social networking sites. These include:
You can display multiple feeds of a single social network, or have separate feeds for each. Social Cards can be customized in terms of color and style and there are a range of different layouts to choose from such as modern and classic masonry grids to responsive sidebar displays (see this demo for a complete list).
The benefit of something like this is that it allows you to showcase further information about your brand from sources outside of your website. Instead of users having to click away from your site to view your social networks, you can display the content right there on a page or sidebar for them to view. This will keep your audience flowing through your site, instead being directed away from it, improving your bounce-rate and increasing the likelihood that they’ll view more of your content.
Flow Flow Review
To get started with this plugin, first you’ll need to purchase it from CodeCanyon, download the plugin file and extract it to a folder on your hard drive. Once the file has been extracted, locate the flow-flow.zip file and upload it to your plugins dashboard within WordPress and activate.
Next click “Settings” on the Flow Flow plugin. You’ll meet a screen that will usually display the list of streams you have active on your website. From here you’ll be able to edit your stream settings, change layouts and customize the look and feel of your social cards.
First though, let’s look at setting up your first stream. Click the “Add Stream” button to create a new stream. Give your stream a title that you’ll be able to easily recognize and click “Save”.
Under “Stream general settings”, you’ll see some options you can play around with. This lets you choose how your items will be ordered, how long they’ll be cached for, whether to show a lightbox and if you’d like your stream to be viewable by the public.
The next section is for your “Stream container settings”. This will dictate how your social cards will look from the front-end of your website. You’ll be able to define headings and subheadings, custom colors and container sizes, as well as whether to show your stream on mobile devices.
The stream layout section allows you to select one of two options. These options are the “Normal View” or “Compact View”. The normal view is designed to display your streams in a flexible, masonry style grid. It’s a universal format that can be used within any page for an elegant and fluid user-experience. The compact view is predominantly for sidebar use. The width of your stream will be no wider than 300px, making it ideal for nearly all types of sidebar sizes.
Lastly should you wish to customize your streams further, you can do so by typing your custom css into the box provided.
Once you’ve chosen your ideal settings, click “Save” and select “Go Back To List”. You should now be able to see your chosen social network in your dashboard, complete with its very own shortcode. It’s this shortcode you’ll need in order to get your stream showing up on the front of your website.
So now it’s time to choose where you’d like to place your social stream. The shortcode you were given lets you place your stream anywhere you like. You could add it into a post, a page or somewhere in your sidebar.
To add your stream to your sidebar, navigate to “Appearance” and then “Widgets” from your WordPress dashboard. Select a “Text Widget” and drag it over to you preferred sidebar. This should be a vertical sidebar to the left or right of your main content. Paste your stream’s shortcode into the text widget and save.
To add your stream to a new page, navigate to “Pages” and “Add New” from your WordPress dashboard. Give your page a name, then paste your shortcode into the page editor. Click “Publish” to save your page and then “Preview” to see what your page looks like.
At some point you might come across a problem whereby your social updates aren’t showing up in your newly created stream. This is usually because you haven’t authenticated your social networks for use with this particular plugin.
Authentication is fairly straightforward. To authenticate your Twitter account, navigate to Flow-Flow in your dashboard’s sidebar, and select “Auth Settings”. Here you’ll see a number of fields to fill in for each network.
- Next go to http://apps.twitter.com and login if you aren’t already. It’s probably best to do this in a new tab so that you can copy and paste the information over.
- Enter the name of your application. In this case you could use something like “Flow Flow Plugin” or similar, so that you know exactly what it’s for.
- Input a description for the app and your website URL. You don’t have to fill in the Callback box, so feel free to leave this empty.
- Now accept the agreement and create your Twitter application.
- Click on “Keys and Access Tokens” to view the details you’ll need to paste into WordPress.
- Copy your Consumer Key and Consumer Secret and paste them into your Flow Flow Auth Settings in WordPress
- Next create your Access Token.
- Copy the Access secret and Access key and paste them into the fields in WordPress also.
- Save your changes.
Now when you navigate to the front-end of your website, you should be able to see your Twitter stream as intended.
Pricing & Documentation
The Flow Flow Social Streams plugin is fairly light on the wallet, considering its functionality and features. At only $18 this plugin is affordable for multiple budgets without burning a hole in your pocket.
Once you’ve made your purchase, you have access to a detailed “Getting Started” guide, which walks you through the download and installation process. The guide then goes on to provide information on the first steps you should be taking and how to setup the plugin within WordPress.
There are further details provided on how to achieve different layout styles, tweaks to customize your streams looks and detailed authentication guides for each of the main social networks. Along with this there’s information on browser support, source code and file structure for those interested in learning more.
Looking to the future, there’s further development on the cards. This will introduce brand new features like:
- Social sharing buttons
- More social networks
- Additional feed options
- More design layouts and animations
- More customization options
Which shows that the developers are in this for the long-haul, and won’t be giving up on the plugin any time in the foreseeable future.
Coming from the same team who created the Ninja Kick series of plugins, I had high hopes for this latest offering. To me, social networking shouldn’t just be about promotion, but rather an opportunity to really connect with your audience.
With Flow Flow, I think the developers have created something that will help people reconnect with the idea of being more sociable. By bringing people and content together in one place via embedded streams of updates, it creates a sense of community, a buzz that most websites lack.
The plugin itself is easy to setup. With the detailed documentation provided, everything’s clearly laid out in terms of what you should be doing. The admin dashboard is clean, intuitive and easy to navigate and there aren’t any confusing options, so you won’t be clicking around in circles trying to find something.
The finished look of the social streams are sleek, responsive and quick to load. The animations are a particular pleasure to view, even on the most basic of layouts so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a look and layout that will work for you personally.
Ultimately it’s a good all-round plugin that will work well for any website, no matter how spartan it the layout and would suit many WordPress users, regardless of their level of technical ability.