Micro experiments on the web: domain names and social handles

What are the outcomes of a 5-hour micro experiment on 1 domain name, social handle? A brief retro.

• 1730 words

• By Scott Mathson

A little retrospective on a recent, micro experiments of mine. Making another small bet on the internet.

What can a semi-exact-match name and handle do on its own, without any promotion and ~5hrs of work?

This is the first time I’m writing about the validation test for CheapClassicTrucks. I’ve lost count, but it’s probably no. 45 on my list of small projects made throughout the years. It’s still very much so a work-in-progress, and I’ve invested very little into it (~5hrs, $9.06 for domain).

The Classic Vehicles Market

The classic vehicle niche and industry fascinates me. I’ve long been an admirer of classic rigs, and even though I don’t have a history or much skill around vehicle mechanics, I’ve always wanted a project pickup to learn skills on. Last year, I got an old pickup to tinker with, more below.

In my classic vehicle research and Craigslist browsing throughout the years, I quickly discovered that there is quite the cult following among classic vehicle enthusiasts. Per-make, per vehicle generations/years, per body style - you name it - folks are extremely passionate about this! There are forum posts upon forum posts on the web that are filled with knowledge, advice, and classic vehicle shop talk/storytelling. Not to mention a web filled with millions of classic vehicle for sale listings.

My own diligence and research of this niche (surprisingly a ~$26B market) was done via my own classic vehicle search. And after years of searching, I finally committed to purchasing my own restoration project last Fall - a 1971 Ford F-250 Camper Special pickup. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of tinkering with, upgrading/rebuilding, and cruising that time machine of a vehicle.

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This market, not that indifferent from stocks or even NFTs, is based around restored, classic vehicle asset class. And within this market, there’s continually growing supply (and demand) - buying/selling/holding of said classic rigs. There are collectors out there who buy high and keep a garage full of 50, 60, or 70 year old classics.

Look at the business built around this market at https://bringatrailer.com (founded by SF-based entrepreneur in 2007, acquired by Hearst Autos in 2020). BAT has seen 46K auctions through their platform (quite interesting to explore their market/sales data, per make/model: https://bringatrailer.com/auctions/results). Their model: sellers pay a one-time $99 fee, and buyers pay 5% fee. Their average sale price is 5- to 6-figures!

But what about the 2-7K market?

What is CheapClassicTrucks?

There’s those who, like me, enjoy getting these classics out on the open road. Those who enjoy the meditative aspect of rebuilding a 50 year old 2-bbl carburetor, those who enjoy changing out the sludgy old oil. Those who are often found browsing private-party listings of more affordable, classic rigs. Project rigs and daily driver worthy vehicles.

Now, I’m only a dabbler in domain name investing and domain development. Yet I’ve definitely dabbled in it more than I’ve dabbled in DIY vehicle mechanics already, though I expect to be doing more on my project pickup this Summer. I do prefer building full-blown SaaS products and services like Plink (podcast smart links), or continually maintaining and growing content sites like Makerviews (maker/artist interview site). But occasionally, I browse expiring domains and hand register new ones. That’s the case with CheapClassicTrucks.

Instagram is a visual community where a lot of these classic vehicle owners/buyers will share and browse. Just looking at some of the community pages built upon IG in this niche make its volume clear, those like the quickly growing @classic_fordtruck_trader (48K followers), or @cheapoldtrucks (100K (from the couple behind @cheapoldhouses)), and on. Let alone the amount of content mentioned being shared on social platforms - IG hashtags like #squarebody (684K posts) and #classictrucks (300K posts) are just a couple examples.

Exact match domains like ClassicTrucks.com and their social handles are long since unavailable.

I’m fascinated by niches, by communities of people passionate about shared ideas and products. And I’m fulfilled by building things, exploring niches, and having a creative outlet via creating projects. Sometimes the best thing to do before diving head first into a new project is a bit of validation, run a micro experiment to see if there’s demand. Then, after a validation pass, focus on building the supply out and continuing to grow the demand.

On 01/05/2021 I bought the domain and setup social accounts for CheapClassicTrucks, my latest micro experiment project. I then spent very little time putting together a few things to run its validation test.

  1. Bought domain, spent ~2hrs building very basic submission page
  2. Spent ~2hrs creating basic imagery, creative asset templates
  3. Put 3 “coming soon” posts up on IG and haven’t touched it since

Now, this isn’t by any means a viral story. Is it even fully validated, and worth pursuing? I don’t know yet.

But 3 months later, without any more effort than what I outlined above, it has organically gained some traction.

Jan to Apr, 1 quarter later, CheapClassicTrucks now has:

  • 100 Instagram followers via exact match handle/name search
  • 10-15 posts and story @ tags, here and there
  • 900 unique web visitors over 3-month period via exact-match, type-in traffic
    • Oversight on my part: site wasn’t even submitted for indexing until I realized this and spent ~5min verifying/submitting sitemap in googlesearchconsole Apr 03.
CheapClassicTrucks instagram post ford f100 truck screenshot
CheapClassicTrucks instagram account screenshot

So, with virtually no promotion and very little time spent here, beyond this initial silent “go-live” drop on the web, it’s cool to see what a name and handle can do on its own. Occasionally I login to the account and look through who’s followed - and it’s exactly the persona (demand) needed and expected - DIY mechanics, classic vehicle enthusiasts looking to sell/find their next project.

Again, I’m going to let this organic discovery experiment run a bit longer before deciding pass/fail. Maybe I’ll invest some more time, another handful of hours, or ideate more sophisticated growth test(s) around this.

I didn’t set any expectation for this, so its neither exceeded or fallen short - it is exactly what it is all on its own. Based off my limited understanding of the web traffic and social followers, I’m sure that I could likely convert ~10% of them to list a rig at a $9.99 fee. And I’ve briefly scoped out some further development here, in the case that I do decide to pursue this project on the side.

It’d undoubtedly be a fun challenge in way of automation. I could repurpose some of the interview submission automation I’ve built around makerviews.com, while also integrating with other APIs for automation and workflows around the listing submission > posting > promotion flows.

I’ll see what the account/profiles can organically acquire on its own for a bit longer.

What niche/market are you testing out lately? Tweet me about it @scottmathson.

Are you into classic rigs, too? Follow @cheapclassictrucks on Instagram!

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