Going crazy following posts on the Internet trying to set permissions on your WordPress directory to get automatic plugin downloads and updates working? So was I. Several times on several sites. Trying to keep security in mind I didn’t want to give too much. After applying the DIRECT method to the wp-config.php file I had to do this to get plugins to download, create the directory and install. Keep in mind all permissions were the default except for this:
chmod 775 wp-content/ chgrp nobody wp-content/ chgrp nobody -R wp-content/plugins/
‘Nobody’ should be the user that the apache process runs under. You do not need to set permissions to 777.