One Does Not Simply Create a Meme: Conditions for the Diffusion of Internet Memes

Michael Johann, Lars Bülow


Internet memes are particularly popular among young social Web users. Research into this phenomenon is booming. However, the success and diffusion factors of memes remain unclear. This interdisciplinary study delves deeper into the question of how and why memes spread through social media platforms. Based on Spitzberg’s model of meme diffusion and Rogers’ framework on the diffusion of innovations, this study integrates linguistic perspectives on image-based memes. Using a quantitative content analysis (n = 3,253), this study analyzes the reasons for the successful diffusion of the so-called Merkel Meme on Twitter. The results indicate success factors such as the participation of well-connected early adopter groups like journalists and media organizations in the early stage of the diffusion process as well as image editing.


Internet memes, Merkel Meme, diffusion, Twitter, social media, content analysis

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