Building a flourishing community-of-value on social media is a big ask, especially since the aura around such platforms usually tilt more towards entertainment than value. Running an online community is a gargantuan task as groups often implode into chaos after a while due to differences in opinion and inherent biases that members seem to carry around when online.
But Chad Boblett has swam against the tides, architecting not just a successful Facebook group, but also the largest professional online forum in the U.S. on rates and logistics in the freight industry. His group, called the Rate Per Mile Masters, is a community that is over 18,000 people strong, connecting carriers, owner-operators, brokers, and agents in a manner and scale like has never been done before.
“The idea for RPM Masters came to me about four years back. While driving a truck, I used to meet different people at the docks, and would become friends with them. We used to trade phone numbers, call each other, talk about spot markets and on working with different brokers,” says Boblett. “People used to discuss the rate per mile and the names of the brokers who gave great rates, to try approaching them for the next load.”
Being a driver, Boblett was accustomed to spending weeks behind the wheel, and he says that part of his daily routine was talking on the phone with other drivers and finding out how they fared for the day. Over time, as people kept sharing information, Boblett’s list of names of brokers and rates started overflowing. But for the lack of a regulated platform in those times to publicly share such information, he was forced to keep all the information to himself.
“Back then, I used to listen to a radio show while on the road. In that show, they used to discuss about buying gadgets that you could put on the truck and about how you could save 5 or 10 cents per gallon,” notes Boblett. “At that time, fuel cost a whole lot more than it does now. So it was a big concern of ours, as fuel was the number one cost. But what I realized was that the show was geared towards people that were concerned about the rate per mile. But what related to most of the audience was that it didn’t really change the price of the fuel surcharge.”
Boblett recounts how he wished to urge the people with authority to ask the brokers for extra money per mile. “But this kind of conversation was never possible on a radio show. So that is how RPM Masters started out. I made a group, put all my friends in it and then they put in their friends in the group, and it started growing,” he says.
What started as a modest attempt has now evolved into a full-blown community bringing together those invested in the industry. “In this industry, there has always been this hate-and-need relationship between the two parties. One party is trying to bring down the rates, and the other party is looking to ramp up the rates as high as possible,” observes Boblett.
Due to the obvious friction that existed between different players in the group, maintaining a cordial and professional outlook was tough at the start. Boblett and the other moderators came down heavily on people who were uncouth, and kept weeding them out - all the while as the group transitioned to become the go-to destination for precious industry networking. As the good word spread, the people who came in realized the importance of being on the platform, thus easing up the work of being a moderator.
The fundamental idea of the group is to make sure owner-operators and carriers have a symbiotically beneficial relationship with the brokers, asserts Boblett. “Back when I started to drive, we didn’t have social media nor did we have anything like the DAT reviews. Now with technology, things are changing,” he says.
“Just take the case of Amazon - you wouldn’t buy something from a seller if his rating is 3 stars, would you? I always look for a 5-star rating from my seller before I buy. The same goes for the freight industry now. DAT has created star ratings for brokers, and people read them. If people have a problem with a broker, they can go and talk about it and write a review.”
Boblett feels that technology has brought in accountability to the system, not just with the brokers but also with carriers. “If a carrier tries to commit fraud or is late on delivery or does not communicate well, brokers come over to the RPM Masters group and talk about it. If you want to succeed in the industry now, you would need to strive on being a fast service provider, whether you are a carrier or a broker,” he opines.
The prospects look bright for the group. A website is in the pipeline, with Boblett striving to create a good landing page and a video blog in the near future. He is also visiting truck shows and exhibitions, and looks to meet up with people from his Facebook group.
Boblett is immensely proud of the group he has built. “It has been going on for four years and has grown to over 18,000 people now. So if you have a question on the industry, search for it on the forum, and you would find an answer there,” he concludes. “With so many people on the platform, we would have talked about the same thing, over and over. In there, you would get an answer for everything you want to know about the industry.”
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