SOMA Lab is an interdisciplinary team of researchers studying topics at the intersection of public health, communication, and marketing in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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SOMA Lab’s goals are to harness publicly accessible data from social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, among others, to rapidly capture and describe health-related attitudes and behaviors of the public, and stay abreast of the marketing and promotional practices of companies whose products or services may directly effect public health and safety.

Current projects range from 1) examining user experiences with popular new tobacco products (JUUL, KandyPens, Puff Bar) to understand their appeal, and the social and environmental characteristics surrounding their use, to 2) identifying, quantifying, and describing promotional practices of companies across various industries and determining how such practices effect offline health-related behaviors, to 3) identifying the extent, and source, of misinformation pertaining to substances like nicotine, cannabis, and products like electronic cigarettes.


User experience with tobacco products.

Our study "Characterising KandyPens-related posts to Instagram: implications for nicotine and cannabis use" analysed posts to Instagram related to KandyPens, an open-system pod mod e-cigarette company, marketing its products as aromatherapy devices. The objective was to determine themes, corresponding user profiles and references to types of e-liquid solutions used with KandyPens.

Online marketing and promotional activities.

Our study, "Content Analysis of Instagram Posts From 2019 With Cartoon-Based Marketing of e-Cigarette–Associated Products," examines the extent to which companies were using cartoon-based strategies to market and promote e-cigarette–associated products in 2019 on Instagram.

Social bots and unsubstantiated health claims.

Our article "Cannabis surveillance with Twitter data: emerging topics and social bots" demonstrates how social bots perpetuate unsubstantiated health claims about cannabis products on Twitter.

Since its inception, SOMA Lab has successfully competed for close to 4 million dollars in government contracts and grants. 

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