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Associate Professor Christopher Yang Co-Authors Study on Reach of E-Cigarette Online Marketing

February 2, 2016

College of Computing & Informatics Associate Professor Christopher C. Yang, PhD recently co-authored a paper with Keck School of Medicine of USC research scientist and author Kar-Hai Chu, PhD that explores the presence and actions of an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) brand, Blu, on Twitter to observe how marketing messages are sent and diffused through the retweet (i.e., message forwarding) functionality.

The study, titled “Diffusion of Messages from an Electronic Cigarette Brand to Potential Users through Twitter,” was recently published in the Public Library of Science’s journal PLOS ONE and is one of the first to track just how far e-cigarette marketing spreads on Twitter and how far removed end recipients are from being users or supporters of the product. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 39.8 percent of teens who are exposed to e-cigarette advertising see it on the internet.

The researchers looked at three months of data from Twitter users that originated with tweets from the Blu e-cigarette company’s official handle “@blucigs.” It tracked the growth of the audience pool from followers of @bluecigs to the followers of those who retweeted @blucigs to the followers of those who retweeted the retweets. Blu is the largest e-cigarette brand on the market today and its marketing arm is active on social media.

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