Self proclaimed “RV experts” are spreading misinformation amongst RV owners. That is the title of my article published in the July issue of RV Enthusiast Magazine, and it is a pet peeve of mine.
The traditional RV buyer has changed in recent years. RVs have gained popularity with people leaving the corporate world behind; they sell everything they own and live and travel in an RV. To supplement their income, they start a blog and offer other RV owners’ advice on using and maintaining their RVs. Some, after a short period of time in the lifestyle, add the title of self-proclaimed “RV expert.” When their social media posts gain traction, capturing larger numbers of followers and subscribers, product brands take notice.
Consumers in the RV industry are attracted to young energetic couples traveling cross-country while documenting every move. People waiting to retire or planning to purchase an RV in two or three years live through these RV influencers’ lives, envisioning what it must be like. Product brands want these influencers to help sell their products.
You can verify this yourself. Type “RV influencer” in a search browser and watch as lists almost immediately appear — of top RV influencers, top RV blogs to follow, top 100 RV this and top 50 RV that. It is a business for those looking at ways to support their RV lifestyle.
There is nothing wrong with this. That is, until non-technical RV influencers stray into the technical realm of RVs and RV ownership.
Why? Because there is a world of difference between advice proffered by an “expert” — defined as “one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject, displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience” — and an “influencer.” Merriam-Webster defines an influencer as “a person who inspires or guides the actions of others.”
What’s missing from the influencer description? The word “expert.”
This problem is rampant in the RV world today — and in some instances, I think it is dangerous. I have witnessed this firsthand more times than I care to think about. I can pick nearly any technical topic pertaining to RVs, search the Internet for a few minutes and find an RV influencer providing incorrect information on the topic. The list of RV misinformation, by self-proclaimed RV influencer experts, grows worse each day — and is escalating into potentially dangerous situations for RV owners.
Don’t let it happen to you. When you read blog posts or watch RV videos on YouTube, make sure the information is vetted by an RV expert. Read the “About Us” section of the blog. If the person was an “accounting specialist” in their past life and they are telling you how to tow your trailer, be cautious about accepting the advice. You need to vet the self-proclaimed RV masters and RV experts to find out who they really are. I see RV author bios all the time, detailing the life experiences of, say, a 20-year-old person who traveled abroad extensively, is educated in search engine optimization and is an avid hiker…and is now telling you how to install a weight-distribution hitch or tow a 4-ton trailer down the road. Is this the person you are going to trust with your investment — and, quite possibly, your life?
I have been used as an expert witness in numerous RV lawsuits involving the deaths of individuals when something went terribly wrong while RVing. I do not advertise this as a service; law firms seek me out based on my RV knowledge, experience, and expertise. If there is clear-cut wrongdoing or misinformation, I assist in the case. These lawsuits have involved topics like improper hitch set-up, towing a trailer without a brake controller, carbon monoxide poisoning, nonoperational safety devices on rented equipment and other unsafe practices.
I get frustrated every time I see yet another instance of misinformation — or copying and altering someone’s technically correct content. This problem has grown exponentially as more people decide to live full-time in RVs. They pick a catchy name, start a blog, and attend workshops to learn how to gain large amounts of followers and subscribers. Now tens of thousands of knowledge-hungry RV owners are reading and watching technically incorrect RV information.
Another problem is large RV-related websites hiring inexperienced writers to produce relevant (technical) content for their blogs to gain more internet traffic to their sites.
Typically, this type of content creator does a web search to find the top-ranking subject matter on the topic they are writing about. Then, they copy and alter the subject matter without a full understanding of the underlying mechanics required to produce the technical content.
At the very least this does harm in two ways:
- To the reader who is digesting information that now has misinformation due to this unqualified content creator.
- To the original content producer who took the time, effort, and expense to properly create technical RV content, only to have it stolen.
It takes a significant amount of time to obtain a deep knowledge and understanding of RV operation and maintenance. A ghost writer or wordsmith without the background to create technical content can have a devastating impact on the subject matter they publish. When a person copies an article or video and alters a few details or combines variations of other authors’ material, it is more than just unethical. It can be dangerous.
So, where are the real RV experts?
The best source for RV information comes from real RV experts in the RV industry who provide vetted RV information to the end user. You typically do not find RV experts traveling around the country documenting their RV lifestyle, so they are not RV influencers. But RV experts are out there on the World Wide Web available to the end user.
The RV space lost one of its most experienced RV educators in April 2020 when Gary Bunzer — known to people throughout the industry as “The RV Doctor” — passed away. Gary provided his expertise to the RV industry and to RV owners for more than 35 years while producing expert RV content on every RV topic imaginable. I was fortunate to know Gary as a colleague and a friend. He is missed by his family, friends, the RV industry, and RV owners. Gary was truly an RV expert, but there are others — RV magazines, RV organizations and RV websites that provide qualified vetted RV content for the end-user.
Here are some of the best, in my opinion:
• If you are reading this article, you already found an excellent RV resource. RV Enthusiast Magazine provides expert content about maintaining, repairing, and upgrading RVs and tow vehicles, plus helpful reviews, projects, industry news and more.
• RV Safety & Education Foundation: RVSEF provides professional and objective RV education with a focus on consumer safety and lifestyle enhancement. It is dedicated to the improvement of recreation vehicle safety, with a focus on consumer education. The organization is tax exempt under Internal Revenue Section 501(c)(3).
• Rollin On TV: ROTV is a television show for RV consumers featuring RV reviews, RV how-to tips, campground reviews, destinations and RV and camping products.
These resources alone represent more than 200 years of real expert RV advice and information for RV consumers to learn from.
There’s a reason why RVing has gained so many new owners — it’s a fantastic lifestyle. But RVs are not perfect; they are subject to forces while on the road that most RVers cannot really comprehend — until something breaks. When that happens — and it will — be careful where you get your RV information. Vet the sources prior to accepting the information as accurate and true. The best way to enjoy the RV lifestyle is to learn from the pros.
Thanks to Bruce Hampson, editor, RV Enthusiast Magazine for editing and publishing this article in the July issue.
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