Use the .coop domain to sell your difference, co-ops told

'We own this space as a movement, it’s available just for us. It's for our community to take advantage of'

Delegates at the Open Co-op Conference in London on 27 July were told to make more use of the .coop domain to market their distinctive business model.

More than 4,866 organisations across 88 countries currently use the .coop domain. Launched in 2001, it is managed by DotCooperation LLC (DotCoop), which is jointly owned by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA).

The domain is only open to bona fide co-operatives – and Tom Ivey, communications officer at DotCoop, says it can help increase their visibility in a crowded marketplace.

“If every co-op had a .coop url and each member used a .coop email address, the co-op movement would have great Internet presence and a media programme worth billions,” he told the conference. “We own this space as a movement, it’s available just for us. It’s for our community to take advantage of.”

A .coop domain can be more expensive than a .com one, sometimes by US$70 (£55), because DotCoop has to verify all users to ensure they are a legitimate member or for the service of the co-operative community. But Mr Ivey says the .coop domain adds value to a co-op’s marketing campaign by showing its co-operative credentials; other domain names do not have the same ability to tell customers about the business.

Because .com is the largest domain extension in the world, some co-ops might not be able to use it because it has already been taken.

“With .coop, because it’s a small community and it is strictly reserved for co-ops, there is much more chance for people to get the domain name that they want,” said Mr Ivey.

Co-ops are already using the .coop domain to increase visibility of the sector. In Colorado a group of co-ops set up, a platform where people can search for co-ops across different sectors and learn more about the business model.

In the second part of the year, the Dotcoop team will present case studies of co-ops, big and small, who have incorporated the domain into their marketing programme. Mr Ivey said there is still a need to bust misconceptions about the .coop domain.

“It is a lot easier than people think. They might think it’s difficult to do it or get rid of the previous website. It’s not true,” he told delegates. “Websites can be kept exactly the same,” he said, adding that getting a .coop domain does not have to require moving to a new email server. Co-ops wishing to keep their old domain can use both, and users will be redirect users to their website.

Related: Our special edition on growth and marketing in the co-op movement

In terms of how long it takes to register the domain, when a co-op is already up and running and has bylaws and articles of incorporation, then getting a .coop domain can only take a few days. If the co-op is still setting up, it can apply for a .coop domain and start building its website.

In addition to the .coop domain, the International Cooperative Alliance has developed the Co-operative Marque, a global identity for the co-op movement, which is is free to use by any bona fide co-op. After they register for the .coop domain, co-ops also get the Cooperative Marque and Identity Toolkit to help them to get the most out of using the marque in their communications.

To promote the movement, the Dotcoop team has started various social media campaigns. At the International Co-operative Alliance’s global conference in Malaysia, Dotcoop selected around 30 volunteer media ambassadors who have been promoting the sector on social media ever since.

Around 8,150 .coop domains registered have been registered so far, 49% of North America and 38% in Europe. The UK also accounts for 12% of the domains registered, more than the Asia-Pacific region (6%), Central and South America (6%) and Africa (1%).

In an attempt to reach out to different regions, Dotcoop is working with the ICA Asia-Pacific region to translate their Dot that says a lot campaign video into various languages.

“The more people adopt the .coop domain, the more valuable it becomes,” says Mr Ivey.

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