How Livestong Engages its Online Health Community

April 28, 2010Sparxoo

Most of us came to know of Livestrong through the yellow bracelets worn on 70 million wrists to raise awareness for and fund cancer research and education. What started as a yellow bracelet dreamed up by Nike and their ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy, transformed the Livestrong brand into a symbol of hope and a community of support. Today, more than 3.3 million visitors get involved at every month.

The health lifestyle brand offers a rich community resource for members to improve daily living habits. Through community support groups, interactive tools and practical information, Livestrong has cultivated a sizable user-base of passionate individuals looking to improve their health situation.

Livestrong goes beyond the typical nutritional facts and articles — it is a lifestyle brand that actually works with you improve your lifestyle. Livestrong’s community-oriented site engages users unlike health information repositories, such as WebMD. While WebMD surpasses Livestrong’s 3.3 million monthly unique users, Livestrong outpaces WebMD in traffic frequency. Over 20 percent of Livestrong’s audience are “addicts” (i.e. 30 or more visits per month) while WebMD has less than one percent. How does Livestrong so effectively engage its community?

We outlined key elements at that make users come back for more:

  • Community: holding members accountable for health milestones
  • User Engagement: interactive tools provide users with valuable health information
  • Practical Information: how-to guides give users actionable advice to meet health goals
  • Monetization: members can get premium content through paid membership and mobile apps


Livestong impacts individual and collective change by holding community members accountable and accepted through member profiles, groups / forums, health-related “dares,” badges and recipes. Community member can build a health profile, where they can post bios, blogs, goals, health tracking results and more. Members can then join groups to work through their personal health challenge. Community members support and encourage the progress of others, which creates a highly personal experience. For instance the 100+ Pounds to Lose Group is about individuals who “have tried enough diets to realize they don’t work for the long-term and are embracing a lifestyle change.”

Here is an example of how Livestrong rallies its community:

To “pump-up” community members, Livestrong also has “Dares,” which enable users to motivate each other by exchanging information through message boards and forums. For instance, JShell1265 says, “1. You are not eating enough! Your net calories should never fall below 1,200 (females) or 1,500 (males). If you burn extra calories in a day (i.e. cardio or other exercise), you should eat those back so your “net calories” are no less than that number.” For all of those “Dares” and other milestones members achieve, they receive a badge — to evidence their incremental progress.

User Engagement

Livestrong activates its community with advanced, dynamic interactive tools. Information from these tools, whether it’s a BMI calculator or symptom checker, can be shared with community members. Here is an interactive tool overview:

  • The Daily Plate: Calculate your calorie goal, find ways to meet it and track progress. Livestrong boasts over 1.39 million members who have lost weight using the Daily Plate app
  • BMI Calculator: Measure your BMI (body fat as it relates to height and weight) with this simple tool. Users can track their BMI over time to measure progress.
  • Livestrong Loops: Map your running, cycling, walking and hiking routes with Google Maps
  • Mobile Calorie Counter: Includes the same expansive database of over 525,000 food and restaurant items and 2,000 fitness activities as The Daily Plate online
  • Symptom Checker: Helps users to decide whether to treat at home or see a doctor with an interactive guide

Practical Information

Alongside fun, community features, Livestrong provides practical, actionable information to alter unhealthy lifestyle habits. Livestrong covers a range of topics, including, Get Healthy, Fitness, Diet & Nutrition, Lifestyle, with sub-categories in each. And for those unfamiliar with article writer’s health jargon, Livestrong created an exhaustively comprehensive dictionary of terms in addition to a library of expert-generated how-to videos and articles.


While The Lance Armstrong Foundation is registered as a 501 (c) organization, monetizes its sizable community through memberships and mobile apps. The take-away from Livestrong’s monetization efforts is to provide deeper levels of engagement. While Livestrong offers a range of health-related tools, the paid options provide more convenience (mobile app) and unlimited access to incredibly helpful tools to get healthy (membership).

Livestrong is a clear leader in the health-oriented community space. The website entices users offering practical advice and tools that encourage repeat usage. Once Livestrong members want to move beyond tools and information, they can make a very real human connection through groups and forums with individuals facing similar health-related challenges. Livestrong does the individual and community elements very well by providing rich content and dynamic health and community tools for free. Only users that want engage even further can pay a fee. Instead of focusing on monetization, Livestrong is genuine kindness and vestment in the greater good. Accordingly, the non-profit truly is, living strong.