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WebMD + Social Media, NOT!

by John Moore | March 09, 2010

Today, WebMD announced the launch of its new social media initiative, WebMD Exchange.  It’s a dud.

Being WebMD, the leading online consumer health, it is a bit surprising that they are so late to the party as there are now quite a number of health-related social media sites such as one of Chilmark’s favorites, the focused Patients Like Me or the more broad ranging site MedHelp.  Thus, with this announcement one would think that WebMD would have studied the other sites, learned what works and what does not and provide a compelling site.

So much for assuming.

Went to the site today to check it out, here are the quick pluses and minuses:

In the plus column the site has…

1) A number of exchanges to address a wide range of conditions.

2) Some of these exchanges focus on care giver issues, such as parents of children with depression.

3) Registered members can create their own exchanges.

4) For diseases with medications, a list is automatically generated of the relative popularity and use of various medications with member reviews (e.g. side effects, overall effectiveness, etc.).

In the minus column the site…

1) Is cluttered and noisy, hard to determine what to read that is pertinent and what is fluff.  Seems to be an amalgamation of everything not to do in a social community site, let alone one addressing health & wellness.

2) Has far too much noise coming from ads. Now ads are not a bad thing if they pertain to the disease/condition within that exchange.  Finding a postmenopausal ad in a section on cancer or a Charmin toilet paper ad in childhood depression?  Please, WebMD, the technology is there to do a better job than this for your members.

3) Takes to long to navigate due to all of the click-thrus to see pretty much everything.  Since online ad pricing algorithms often have a site retention/click metric, WebMD is purposely making it more difficult to get at content to maintain its ad pricing power – not nice WebMD.

4) Has very little if any policing seems to be occurring leading to the creation of many communities (exchanges in WebMD parlance) that are of little value or just plan silly.  A favorite in the Anxiety-Panic category was the Exchange, OMG Zombies.

5) For some conditions there can be several exchanges. Fine, nice to have choice but which one is truly a vibrant exchange.  Well, that answer is not apparent until you click-thru (more clicks, more ads) to determine if an exchange is vibrant.  Royal pain in the a**.

Bottomline:

WebMD’s attempt at using social media within the context of these exchanges is late to market and one of the poorest executions of such that we have seen.  Granted, maybe we had high expectations for WebMD as it truly is the 800lb gorilla in this market. Sadly, those expectations were not even close to being met.

Hey WebMD, why not take a smidgen of that $800M in cash and investments you have hoarded up and actually do this right.  It will be an extremely modest investment that could pay off handsomely rather than this half-baked attempt which is frankly embarrassing and will likely fail.

11 responses to “WebMD + Social Media, NOT!”

  1. […] Article John Moore, Chilmark Research, 10 March 2010 SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "WebMD + Social Media, NOT!", url: "http://articles.icmcc.org/2010/03/10/webmd-social-media-not/" }); […]

  2. autumns leaf says:

    So glad to read this. I’m in the process of setting up a personal solo Q&A psych site. Was taken aback yesterday by this announcement as it seems to cover some of the same ground.

    Sounds no different from the rest of Medscape. Medscape’s physician DB: ugly, unmoderated, nasty. Colours grey and depressing, cluttered pages. No moderation. You name it, they’ve done it wrong. Medscape (or WebMD) is a Paharma owned corporate behemoth. It has no agility of mind. They *can’t* do things better. They lack some basic understanding of the net, or design…or *something*. They don’t *get it*.

    @autumns_leaf on Twitter.

  3. All of the above explains many of the reasons why I’m taking all the time I need to get it right at medXcentral. No rush. Folks will always go where they get what THEY want.

    There’s nothing wrong with making a little.. or a lot of money. That is unless greed overrides common courtesy.

    Oh the things I could do if I was not a one-man show with no budget. 🙂

    Great report.

    • John Moore says:

      Yes, Jim, can completely relate, if only I had the $$$, and the staff, oh the things I could do rather than this completely lame attempt by WebMD. Honestly, fine it sad that a brand such as WebMD is completely taking advantage of its current position. They keep this up and consumers will start going elsewhere, if not already starting to do that already, as Everyday Health is rising.

  4. Susannah Fox says:

    The OMG Zombies anxiety/panic discussion group made my day – thanks for that.

    Your blog is a must-read for these unvarnished reports from the front. Much appreciated!

  5. Ryan J says:

    Straight-talking, honest and informed analysis as always. Thanks John!

    Although I don’t keep a blog myself, I was tempted to write about WebMD Exchange when I visited the site after receiving the launch newsletter last week.

    I spent easily a minute, my eyes and mouse cursor jutting around the page (mostly in random and opposite direction) trying to home in on a target. I fell of the merry-go-round and ran out of the park wondering what had just happened.

    Online health communities are in general a tough nut to crack. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t too many success stories out to shout about. Perhaps I am wrong?

    Have you had a chance to check out the health offerings for smartphones? I have carried out some research in this area and have a few good sources if you’re interested?

    Thanks as always,
    Ryan.

  6. […] WebMD + Social Media, NOT! (Chilmark Research): WebMD wanted to take a step towards web 2.0, but didn’t do it in the best manner. […]

  7. jamesbmathews says:

    John,

    Good post and realistic. Some real innovators @ WebMD ….unfortunately none of them are in Senior Mgt.

    Been there. Done that.

    J

  8. […] » WebMD + Social Media, NOT! « Chilmark Research […]

  9. […] Chilmark on WebMD’s Social Media Launch […]

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