Curtis Coleman

Curtis Coleman

“Wouldn’t you rather be running a village and not just a parking lot?”

That’s a question posed to campground owners in a video about RVillage.com, a social networking site specifically for RVers launched last March. Founder and RVer Curtis Coleman has been getting the word out to consumers about RVillage – it topped 10,000 registered members (“Villagers”) in the first four months – and now he wants to have a word with campground owners.

They’re already on the RVillage campground map, because it’s populated by every park known to exist by online destination directory Allstays, whether or not the owners know RVillage exists. What remains to be done, he said, is for the owners to “claim” their parks – by signing in, they can fill out their profile and access park benefits – so they don’t miss the boat. And that boat is getting closer to yacht-size every day.

The network has already been endorsed by travel groups and industry entities such as Escapees RV Club, Workamper News and RV Daily Report, with Coleman currently “in deep conversations” with representatives at the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and working on creating a presence at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind.

Chatter and testimonials are also popping up on discussion forums at RV sites, on recreation and owner’s clubs and all over the blogosphere – “Google us and you’ll see 15 pages of blog entries,” Coleman proclaimed – with plugs coming in from personal bloggers as well as Geeks On Tour and Technomadia. Based on the buzz, RVillage is wildly popular and still gaining momentum.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.07.25 PMMeanwhile, the names of campgrounds listed on RVillage fill tens of pages, while claimed campgrounds fill one-and-a-half.

“What we want is for people to claim their parks,” Coleman told Woodall’s Campground Management. “We want those owners to go take a look. Let us impress you.”

Campground owners and operators should be knee-deep in this, he said, because RVillage is already proving to be a solid business-generator. Customers choose one park over another when they see it has members staying there who also enjoy potlucks or travel with their dogs, for example. If a member wants to accept a friend’s invitation to a get-together at Campground X, he’ll book a site. Members can even plot specialized routes that take them through Villager-heavy campgrounds between Point A and Point B – and they can identify those campgrounds by the icon that turns green when a park has three or more members checked in.

“When we’re traveling through an area, we always prefer an RV park that promotes the lifestyle, not just providing us a place to park for the night,” said Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia, who works and RVs full-time with her business partner, Chris Dunphy. “Whenever we pull into a park that displays an RVillage sticker, we know they encourage us to get out and meet our neighbors and make new friends. When deciding where to stay in our journey, we seek out parks on RVillage that already have people checked in. … For us, making friends is a big part of the lifestyle.”

Claiming a park is free, and the level of involvement is up to campground management; they may win a green icon simply by giving existing guests the RVillage-provided sign-up flyer. “There’s nothing to manage,” Coleman said. “You can, but you don’t have to. You have nothing to lose, but plenty of potential for good.”

Part of that potential comes from the capability to message Villagers near and far. “You can create your own get-together or discount and send an invitation to members within 100 miles,” he explained. “You can send a message to your guests telling them, ‘The forecast is windy tonight so roll up your awnings,’ or ‘We had to move this craft activity to this other time.’” Likewise, guests can send direct feedback to park owners, allowing any complaints to be handled immediately and before they go external on sites like Yelp or RV Park Reviews.

With the site being free to members and campgrounds, financial support comes from ads, which change depending on the user’s location to display local attractions, businesses and services. RV dealers, manufacturers and suppliers can also promote their products to members.

That’s another arena where RVillage claims superior value and reach: Colemain said advertisers spend far less on far greater exposure attained through the site’s interactive online ads compared to compact, static business-card reprints on paper-placemat park maps.

That localized information is also appreciated by RVers, according to work camper Rosalyn Chauvin.

“We need things like a good dentist for a toothache, RV repair or detailing, or a local restaurant serving our favorite cuisine. Our usual option is to sift through Google results to hopefully find something. With the arrival of RVillage.com comes movement into the 21st century,” Chauvin said at her RosalynAndRoy.com blog site.

“Say you’re looking for some RV service and you find the company that does it near an RVillage park. You’d probably stay there to have the work done. You can plan your travels accordingly and contact the company to schedule your visit well before arriving, which saves a lot of time waiting like we’ve all done,” she wrote.

Coleman said getting all the pistons firing on RVillage, from camper users to park owners to advertisers, is something he’ll keep pouring himself into, with an eye on bringing the site to full capacity – the ceiling, he said, is around 1 million users.

“It’s not cheap, but it’s necessary. We’re building this for the future,” he stated confidently. “We’re just unbelievably proud of what we built, and everybody’s just embracing it.”

To claim a campground or learn about RVillage’s opportunities for park owners and advertisers, visit rvfriendnetwork.com/rv-parks.