Alternative Online Caravan Communities

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Online Communities: The Problem

Facebook Groups

I’m a member of some myself, and some are very large with more than 30,000 members. I also run one (which isn’t toxic). But recently, many of these seem to be getting more and more toxic, don’t you think? I have on occasion come under attack from various groups, not just Facebook, but other forums too. It seems people are happy to sit behind a keyboard and type things they wouldn’t say to your face. This tends to happen more in larger groups and it’s the price you pay for putting out content.

Another problem with Facebook is keeping track of discussions or finding the answer to a question you might have. Then when you ask the question you’ll get a barrage of abuse from people telling you to google it, or search the group posts. Easier said than done. Oh and isn’t a community meant to be exactly that? If people just googled everything, they’d be no community.

Even in groups that are well moderated, it’s often difficult to get your “voice” heard. You see, Facebook manages what posts are seen and what aren’t. I don’t know exactly how it does it, but you often hear of the “algorithm”, which is software that works out which posts should be seen and which shouldn’t; based on a number of factors.

I run a Facebook group and I regularly see that a post I create only reaches a small percentage of the members. I’m the Admin of the group, why isn’t everyone seeing my post? By the way, I’m not suggesting I’m more important than anyone else 🙂 It’s just that as members and admins, we have no control at all.

An Example..

So, the fact is, I’m fed up with unhelpful and rude replies on the larger groups, so I’ve been searching for alternatives to join. Looking at “off Facebook” communities, there aren’t very many, any of those that exist, they seem just as bad as Facebook for unruly behaviour.

Oh, whilst I think of it, someone alerted me to a thread on going on a Motorhome forum. My channel is based on humour, I don’t expect everyone to like it. But this is what happens, as soon as one starts they’re all at it. They don’t know me, they’re not aware of my name, or anything about me, but they all chime in. This is in response to a vlog I did about metered sites. Now I thought it might be a useful vlog, but obviously I left myself open. Normally I’d reply, but I wasn’t a member of this group, so I just counted to ten..

None of them commented on the vlog, so I could see it, but they did it behind the wall of an online community. Below is the thread where they are talking about my vlog on metered campsites..(One even suggests I grow weed!) BTW, I don’t get money from sponsors either.

So, my first thoughts were to hunt them down and seek my revenge. You know, maybe turn up their thermostat a degree or two, or open one of their windows to let a draft in. But no, I’m bigger than that. I decided to research creating a new community, which wasn’t on Facebook. I was already researching and this gave me inspiration to carry on.

Creating a New Friendly, Inclusive Community

I know I can do it. I run a Facebook group which many would say is the best group they belong to. I do moderate the posts carefully, but it’s not just me moderating it. Facebook also chime in, they also decide who sees what post, which really isn’t the idea of a community it is..

Imagine being down the pub and the landlord only letting you hear certain conversations from your friends, you probably wouldn’t go there again and you and your friends would arrange to meet somewhere else…

After some searching, I found a platform that I thought would be ideal. One of the main advantages is that we can have separate “spaces” or “rooms” for different subjects. This is how forums were done before Facebook took over the world.

Talk Wrench Community

Pretty good name, isn’t it? I like it. Anyway, I’ve created “Talk Wrench Community” and, in my opinion, it’s an immeasurably better experience than Facebook.

Facebook has one long stream of information, so not only do you have Facebook deciding what you see, if you’re not watching it all day (and who does that?) you’ll likely miss something of importance to you.

Having different spaces for “Caravan Tips”, Caravan Questions”, “Buying & Selling”, and “Travelling Abroad” (you get the idea) makes it so much easier to find the information you need, more quickly.

Absolute Transparency (Why Another Community?)

I’ll be completely open here, there is a “but”. It’s a subscription-based membership. I’m sorry, I know a lot of people are anti this sort of thing, but I’m not really creating it for “everyone”. No, it’s not a “get rich quick” scheme for me and it’s not meant to bolster my pension.

However, these things aren’t free, there’s an amount of cost incurred by CaravanVlogger to run this platform (no violins please). No, it’s not paying me a wage, it’s paying for the platform itself, however, I’ve kept costs as low as I can. At the time of writing this article, the cost is £30 per year for access to the Talk Wrench Community forums.

A Little Story For You

Once I retired, I decided to take the caravanning thing a bit more seriously. Mainly because it gives me something to do. There are various ways you can achieve this, one of the easiest is probably to join a Professional body of some description. I have a reasonable following, and I certainly see people with less of a following than me join these organisations. Well, to put no finer point on it, I was invited to join one. OK, I thought this was interesting. It could open doors. However, I didn’t think I was a very good fit, as I don’t really “tow the party line” so to speak. I mean if these bodies work for the industry, can they really have me saying negative things?

So, after being invited to join, I did apply, I know a few people whose support I thought I had, only to have my application refused. Odd, why would they invite me to join and then refuse the application?

I have a reasonable idea why, or rather who was influential in this decision. However, on reflection, it wouldn’t have been a good move for me. I would have had to “tow the party line” which I wouldn’t be comfortable doing. So, an epiphany followed, why the heck am I pandering to “the industry” when I’ve always been about openness and the caravan community, never the industry, they were never first in my thoughts when creating content.

Anyway, that was the catalyst behind this community idea. I genuinely want to stick two fingers up and the caravan industry; Power to the People! I know I’m not going to be a brand ambassador or an industry mouthpiece. I don’t need to earn a living from being a creator, I have a pension for that. So, a move back to being helpful and having fun is the order of the day.

Talk Wrench Community Membership Plans

Why Would I Pay For Something That’s Free?

This question is normally a comparison thing with Facebook, which is free and Talk Wrench community which is a paid-for solution.

Facebook doesn’t really work with niche interests like caravanning. The reason it doesn’t work is that there’s just one stream of information. You have to scroll through all the posts to find something you’re interested in. It’s great for banter, but if you need information, it’s not the best.

With the Talk Wrench Community, you’re given individual “spaces”, which makes finding information easier. There are some examples in the next section, but for now, you have spaces such as “Caravan Questions”, “Buying & Selling” and “Trip Planning Advice”. So, if you’re asking about the best way to get to the Ferry Meadows CAMC site, you’d ask for help in the space “Trip Planning Advice. If you have a tip to share, post in “Caravan Tips” etc. This makes it so much easier to locate information. This is at the heart of the community.

These different Spaces make it easier for people to advertise things for sale, or even for YouTubers to share their vlogs in the “YT Channels” space without cluttering everything to the point where the single stream of Facebook renders everything unhelpful.

Customisable alerts help you get notifications about certain spaces or all spaces, it’s up to you.

It also enables me to add features and content as the community grows, again, keeping it away from the core of the community, so that only people who want to see it, see it.

Right, not that’s out of the way if you’re still reading… You can take a look for yourself, below are some screenshots of the website interface and below them are the app for your mobile phone.

Website Interface

Mobile App View

Big Isn’t Always Better

It’s not about 10s of thousands of members, it’s just a group of like-minded people who want to help each other out in a friendly atmosphere.

Talk Wrench Community Membership Plans

What About CaravanVlogger’s Existing FB Group & YouTube Channel?

I’ve seen other creators in other niches close their FaceBook groups, but I have no plans to do that. I think it’s a healthy, friendly group and long may it continue to be so. But why the new community? Well, not everyone does Facebook, things aren’t easy to find and I don’t think Facebook works as well for smaller niches like caravanning. The layout of the mainstream makes it difficult to find things.

NOTE: The YouTube channel and Facebook Group will remain, unaffected.

Questions?

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About the author

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