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communication and promotion in social media
communication and promotion in social media

RV social media — a blessing or a curse?

There is no question the Internet is one of the greatest inventions of my lifetime. As a kid growing up in the 1960s, the entire sum of universal knowledge could be extrapolated from the pages of the 26-volume World Book encyclopedia.

In high school, the research required to find information was limited to looking up a topic in a rack of index cards, which pointed to the location of a book on a shelf somewhere. Then, as I scoured the shelves looking for that ONE book, I had to cross my fingers hoping one of my 2,000 classmates hadn’t already checked it out.

If so, then it was off to the public library to repeat the search. But, the library also had dozens of magazines that I could flip through hoping to find a story about the topic I was researching. If that didn’t work, my last resort was to grab a reel of film or a large index card sized section of film and use a special microfiche reader to painstakingly scroll through archived microscopic images of newspaper pages looking for a story.

The whining, sniveling crybabies of today who demand “safe zones” at universities have no idea what it took to conduct real research for essays in college during the 1980s.

Yes, the Internet is an amazing invention. By simply typing in a few “keywords” and pressing a button, people today can find an answer for any imaginable question within a few seconds, along with sources for more information — and a video to even tell them how something works, or how to fix something that’s broken. Best of all, they can find and view the information in the palm of their hand from virtually anywhere in the world.

The problem with the Internet is that the information isn’t always current. New products are constantly being developed that render the proposed solution irrelevant, especially in terms of technology. But, because it is a historical depository, it’s relatively easy to find information, even articles concerning my 2003 Winnebago Adventurer.

That’s where social media has the biggest impact on RV owners. There are forums, blogs and online groups where people tend to congregate to communicate and share their experiences.

People can go to a group in Facebook and announce, “Hey, I’m thinking of going to Washington State this summer. Any suggestions on where to go and what to do?”

Within hours, they’ll likely receive dozens — if not hundreds — of responses offering recommendations on places to stay, sites to see, highways to avoid, routes to take, bargain attractions, out-of-the way excursions, local foods to eat, the best times of year to visit, places for families with kids to hang out, and places to hang out away from families with kids.

The information comes from locals in the area as well as people who have visited recently. It’s one of the best ways to plan a trip, seek advice on a particular RV or recommendations for a product that solves a problem. And, as a general rule, people are patient with new RVers asking basic questions — motorhome or fifth wheel? — because we’ve all been there at one point or another and appreciated some free, friendly advice.

Yet, because of the anonymity associated with social media, people asking simple questions occasionally face a barrage of criticism and unwanted advice. These Internet trolls hiding behind their keyboards often write things they would NEVER say to a person in a face-to-face conversation.

Recently, something happened to the Jeep I was towing that caused the transfer case to literally blow up while traveling. It created a hole in the floor of the vehicle, knocked out the transmission and drive train, severed a fuel line and ripped apart a bunch of wires.

The vehicle was totaled, so I went on a search for a replacement. I posted a question in a Facebook group along the lines that my Jeep blew up and I needed a new car.  I asked what cars people had great experiences using when being flat towed behind a motorhome.

As expected, I got a bunch of wonderful responses and wound up following the recommendations of people who owned Honda CRVs, which was the most popular choice people suggested.

However, I also had to endure a good share of comments from people telling me what an idiot I was for allowing my Jeep to blow up because it “must have been poorly maintained.” There were comments telling me that “if I was smart,” I would use a tow dolly rather than flat tow a car.  Gee, thanks!

People who maintain Facebook groups have confided to me that they are fed up with Internet trolls butting into conversations and berating other group members for choices they made, and preferences they have. A question as simple as “We’re a Christian family visiting such-and-such community. Who can recommend a good family-friendly church?” can trigger a holy war of words.

My fellow bloggers at Technomadia found the comments being bantered back and forth to be so bad, they finally shut down their group. They were berated for such silly things as a lampshade being crooked on a video, the types of clothing they wore, the way they laughed, or the fact that — God forbid — they sought to make money providing advice and service to RV owners.

When I reached out to them after their announcement that the forum was shutting down, they noted they did maintain a zero-tolerance policy regarding any negativity. But, before they can hit the delete button or ban the person making the comments, they must read the comment and, some days, all the negativity just ads up.

What a shame. They were my go-to resource for all things technical on the road. I’m glad that, after a taking a break, they’re back to posting again because RVers need their expertise, support and encouragement. I’m hoping others who enjoy the information they offer will take the time to post a word of thanks or encouragement.

The moderator of one of my favorite Facebook groups, RV Tips, resorted to posting this message to its page in hopes to encouraging online civility among members:

“We have been having way too many members giving rude answers to other members questions, this has got to stop. I will not issue warnings any more, violators and their posts will be deleted. We don’t need drama in this group. If you want to be rude, use foul language or be confrontational, you will be removed from the group.”

No kidding, life is way too short and too stressful already without having to endure negative comments when you just want to kick back, relax a bit and plan your next trip.

I can tell you that people who maintain blogs, forums, Facebook groups and the like don’t do it to get rich. It is often a labor of love fueled by a desire to share their insights about the RV lifestyle to others in order to help their readers truly enjoy their on-the-road experiences.

So, what sites do I like to visit for information?  Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order, that produce a mind-boggling amount of content each month:

Here are some of my favorite Facebook groups that have extremely active discussions:

I love the RV groups on Facebook. Browsing those posts is a great way to end the day. They’re funny and informative, and I often pick up many useful tips.

I’ve met many wonderful people on the road, and am very appreciative of sites like Facebook that allow us to remain connected and continue to share in each others’ lives and adventures — until our paths cross again.

About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is the editor of Let's RV and the editor of RV Daily Report. A Wisconsin native and father of three grown daughters, he is now based out of Arizona and travels the country in his Winnebago Adventurer motorhome interviewing industry professionals and interesting RVers alike. He can be reached at editor@letsrv.com

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