I've noticed an emerging trend in the domain name space as a result of the increasing emphasis on "doing good." Until recently, the domain strategy of choice was to use a single domain name extension to house all a company's online activity, while other addresses were selected purely as redirects or as brand protection maneuvers. Simply, the prevalent mindset was once a .com (or a .net or .org), always a .com (or .net or .org). But times -- and marketing plans -- are changing.
Now, with more than 200 million domain registrations worldwide, an escalating number of "traditional" .coms (read: for-profits or commercial entities) are broadening their online reach by building out their .orgs to dedicate a holistic space to their philanthropic efforts, educational initiatives, online community engagement or crisis communications. So, the question is : How did this shift happen and why should your company follow this trend?
While I'd like to think that the answer is as simple as the fact that individuals, organizations and corporations are realizing .org' s value and inherent credibility among their communities, the shift is more likely due to these developments:
- Enter the age of corporate social responsibility programs. Increasingly, consumers expect corporations to do more than just sell products and services. In fact, a study by Do Well Do Good found that 88% of consumers think corporations should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment. In other words, consumers want to support companies that are actively bettering the world, and companies, in return, don't want to "hide their good" within their corporate website. (Not to mention, they can generate improved search engine optimization value by building out multiple websites.)
- Behold the social effect. With social networking accounting for 22 .7% of our online time, individuals and organizations are using social to tap into mass audiences and promote their causes or engage their communities.
- Don't underestimate the power of real-time marketing. Most domain name registrars offer instant websites. As a result, we are seeing more companies and individuals respond rapidly with a .org to communicate with their audiences and mobilize a community in times of crisis or calm.
Take, for example, SXSW4Japan.org. In a tragic coincidence, the South by Southwest Festival was already under way when the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March. The conference organizers responded almost immediately, rolling out a simple, effective website to bring together the festival community and encourage emergency relief donations to the Red Cross. The effort paid off in spades. By the end of the four-day festival, the SXSW community raised nearly $130,000 in online donations through the website, social media (search #sxsw4japan or #sxswcares), corporate sponsorships and a Web widget. The original goal? $10,000.
Other for-profits have achieved similar success. Hyundai Motor America, for example, implemented a CSR program called Hyundai's Hope on Wheels to accomplish three goals: Raise awareness of childhood cancer; celebrate the brave children battling the disease; and support research into better treatments and ultimately a cure. The results? In 2010, the campaign raised $2 million through the 2010 Hope on Wheels Tour, and Hyundai Motor America and its more than 800 dealers nationwide donated an additional $6.8 million to children's hospitals and nonprofit organizations across the country.
Even Internet heavyweight, Facebook -- the most visited .com, has gotten into the game. In early 2011, Facebook launched the Open Compute Project, an initiative to accelerate data center server innovation and to build one of the most energy-efficient, low-cost computing. As a result, Facebook's Oregon data center is now one of the most efficient in the world. How so? The company's energy consumption per unit of computing power has declined by 38%.
Examples of traditional .coms now successfully utilizing .orgs are numerous, but the commonality they share is that marketers -- whether a Fortune 500 or interactive festival -- are looking to build creative, passionate domain strategies that match the creativity and passion of supporters. Tapping into the power of a .org in conjunction with a .com can result in many benefits.
When marketers and online strategists consider the increased SEO; improved Web traffic and online branding; strengthened customer relationship; and amplified attention to a brand's doing good, the decision to choose .org should be simple. So, .coms of the world: What's your .org?