SAN FRANCISCO — Originally launched as a blogging platform, WordPress is free, open source Web software that anyone can use to easily set up their own blog or website.

For the real estate professional looking to start or expand their current WordPress site, today’s speakers at the first day of the Real Estate Connect event in San Francisco this week suggested a variety of plug-ins to take real estate sites to the next level.

The software’s latest version, WordPress 3.0, launched about a month ago.

Reggie Nicolay, director of social media for the National Association of Realtors’ Realtors Property Resource, listed some "must-have" plug-ins (downloadable software accessories) to "rock" a real estate website. Many of them are "premium" plug-ins, meaning they aren’t free; Nicolay said he preferred these because there tends to be a strong support system tied to the plug-in when there’s a price tag involved.

1. Gravity forms: For agents, one of the most important functions a website has is to allow potential clients to contact them. Gravity forms allow agents to create their own forms with their own chosen drag-and-drop fields. Agents can then embed the forms in blog posts and Web pages.

The plug-in also allows readers to submit content that then shows up in the "drafts" folder of the agent’s WordPress dashboard — essentially letting readers help agents create content for their sites. Cost: $39.

2. WishList Member: This plug-in turns a WordPress install into an online membership site. It allows unlimited membership levels and protects posts and pages by member type, among other functions. Cost: $97.

3. Altos Toolbar: If you can’t think of something to write about, this plug-in will come in handy. It ties into local markets and allows you to easily post relevant data charts. It also offers a form of lead capture — people can sign up to receive e-mailed market updates. Cost: about $79 per month.

4. Backup Buddy: This plug-in backs up your site and allows you to easily migrate to a new server, without having to re-install WordPress, if you need to go to a new host. Cost: $50/year.

5. WordPress Touch Pro : Convert your WordPress site to a mobile site for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, Opera Mini, Palm Pre and Blackberry Storm smart phones. This plug-in also allows you to set up push notifications so that you know when someone has posted a comment to your site. Cost: WP Touch is free; Pro is about $29.

6. Events Calendar Pro: This plug-in includes custom post type to signal events, an "upcoming events" widget, Google Maps integration, a calendar month view with tooltips, and a detailed list view. Cost: $32.

7. Sharebar: This adds a customizable vertical box to the left of a blog post with your chosen "share" buttons for social networks. The box floats as you scroll so the buttons are always visible. Cost: Free.

8. Meet Your Commenters: This plug-in allows you to learn more about your readers. It utilizes Google’s Social Graph API to display your commenters’ Web pages and social network profiles on your WordPress dashboard. It’s similar to Gmail’s Rapportive. "I do this all the time with RPR and I haven’t had anyone freak out or call me a stalker yet," Nicolay said.

A few more that could come in handy:

  • Simple Facebook Connect
  • Simple Twitter Connect
  • Local Market Explorer (free)
  • Gmap
  • Contemplate
  • BuddyPress
  • VideoPress
  • Stats
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