It’s not often something comes along that is different and maybe the next big thing in caravanning and camping… but I think this website might just be worth keeping an eye on. I was alerted to it by Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard. (Technomads). It started last year in America by a group of like-minded RV’ers that wanted a way to keep in touch… and more besides.
RVillage is a website that allows full and part-time RV’ers – to have a virtual community on-line, to keep in touch with their friends, arrange meet-up’s at camp sites, organise social and interest groups and share their passions and camping tips.
When you first go to the web site RVillage.com you get the home screen:
From here you can sign up, log in if you are already a member or watch some of the videos that introduce RVillage. There are currently around 20 short video tutorials showing you how to do almost everything you might want to do on the web site… there is definitely a lot of effort gone in to providing support.
When I first looked at the site in July 2014 there were around 6000 users registered, I signed up for free last month (Dec 2014) and it had just passed the 12,000 mark and toady it stands at 12,920 members and a large number of major campsites and RV Park chain’s in the US have joined as corporate members.
If you want to sign up, there is a video tutorial that takes you through the sign up and setting up your profile. Once you have logged in you get your home page that has the usual features… navigation menu, messages button, profile button, notifications etc.
If I click on ‘Explore Members’ it takes me to a page with a map and shows my location.. I can select a radius – in this case 250 miles and click on show members…
As you can see, Sue and I must have been the 5th people so sign up from the UK. You can select show sites, group members (more about groups shortly) and a host of other things. Clicking on a member brings up a little box that gives you the name of the member.
Looking at the map of the USA, by zooming in you can see all the camp sites (RV Parks) and if there are other members staying there presently… or by selecting one of the groups (if you have joined any) you can see if there are any group members staying at particular sites.
On the same map page as explore members, you can also explore sites (parks) by clicking on destination and entering a city. As there are no sites listed yet for the UK, in the example below I entered our favourite US city… Boston, MA and selected a 100 mile radius…
and clicked on the icon in Boston Harbour. It opened a box that gave the basic details for “Boston Harbor Islands State Park” and by clicking on the name it load the page for the site…
From this page you can access all the information about the park… Amenities, Feedback, Area Map and any get-together arranged. It also shows you how may RVillage members are currently staying and gives links to the camp sites webpage.
If you don’t see a site you are on or know about, then there is the ability to add it to the list (there is a video tutorial on how to do this).
There are currently around 300 ‘groups’ within RVillage… everything from photographers and bloggers to fishermen and hikers with everything in between.
I joined the ‘Bloggers’ group for people who write blogs about their RV travels… clicking on the “Groups” tag in the menu takes you to a page that details the groups you have joined…
… and clicking again on any group that you are a member of takes you to the groups page…
… which is a forum page. There is usually an “Introduce yourself” post to.. well introduce yourself and away you go!
Anyone can start a group and I can see it being really useful for small clubs and associations using it as a really easy way of keeping in touch and organising meetings.. so for example if you are a Radio Control Modeller and organise camping get together with other RC Modellers…. or perhaps a Radio Ham that caravan’s and want to meet up with other motorhome and caravanning radio hams, well this might be one way of easily achieving it. As the website doesn’t see borders… well it could be an easy way of keeping in touch and arranging events for camping groups across Europe. Again, there are video tutorials on how to join or create and manage groups.
So what do we think?
Well, I can’t decide if it’s going to be the next ‘Facebook’ type success. It is interesting as it merges site reviews, forums, groups and messaging all into one place. It has a lot of ideas that I like but as it started in the USA, it’s centred on North America. I can see it having an appeal across Europe.
In the US, some of the biggest campsite operators are involved along with some major advertisers and the team behind it seems quite strong with some serious investment in the website. I think it will take a little while to get going on this side of the pond and become established in the UK and Europe but then again I can remember when I first saw Facebook and after joining and entering my details wondering if I’d ever log in again.
I can see it growing here. Although the leisure market might be slightly smaller per head here and in Europe it is significant in numbers. How fast it will grow I guess depends on if it’s promoted and how members take to the site. There are some features I’ve not seen in any UK or European based websites.
The question is…. Is it just another website or is it the next Facebook?