I'm going to talk about girls.
Girls use their appearance to get attention. I dunno if it's all socialized in to them, or if it's built in, or whatever. No, it's not universal, not every girl does it. Boys do it to, and so on. Please insert all the sensible caveats here. But it's an identifiable girl-related thing. Of ourse, we all like attention. Boys, girls, middle-aged men with angry blogs. But let's start with girls.
In my youth the competitive landscape consisted, mainly, of one's school. You had to compete with, at most, a couple hundred other girls for the attention of, well, whomever you wanted attention from. Generally the idiot jock boys who, by some bizarre consensus, became the desired attention-sources. But even attention from dweebs like me was not entirely without value. The competition wasn't with all the girls, of course, just the ones in roughly the same social stratum.
Enter Facebook. Abruptly there are 20 million girls roughly the same age as you are, all contending for attention. The attention sources are somewhat more amorphous, but the measuring technology is much better. You can gather Likes! Now you gotta up your game. It's time for more revealing outfits and a whole lot of duckface!
A related phenomenon. Boys with cameras have been talking girls out of their clothes since approximately 15 nanoseconds after the camera was invented.
Enter the Internet. Now we're getting a double-dose of attention: the model and the photographer are both getting attention. Dropping photos of naked or nearly naked young women into anywhere on the internet appears to flip a switch in people's brains. They return to the age of 17, and enter an attention-giving mode. In photographic forums, this manifests as a bunch of facile comments about photographic things. The light is always fantastic, the processing is wonderful, the mastery of technique is, well, masterful. Even when it's not. Nobody actually looks at any of that stuff, they're simply giving positive attention, mouthing the locally-recognized praise words. On wider social media it's Likes, +1s, and comments about how gorgeous you are, which really means how nearly naked you are.
Taking pictures of naked girls is an easy road to genuinely beautiful photos. It's pretty hard to go wrong.
It's an even easier road to Internet Approval, and it doesn't matter whether you go wrong or not. The only things that matter are the age of the model, her body shape, and her degree of nakedness. Literally. Nothing else matters. Find a hot model, get her naked, and photograph her any goddamned way you like, it just Does Not Matter. You'll be told that you a great photographer by pretty much everyone, except some other dudes who also photograph naked girls who will nitpick a bit mainly because you are stealing attention away from them.
Finally, we come around to kicking it up a notch.
Remember how we all seek attention? Maybe you're too shy or cheap to shoot pictures of naked girls. What can you do?
Well, find a place where attention is given, and then take pictures just like the ones that garner attention there. Then kick it up a notch. More saturation, more contrast, more of whatever it is they like there. This is the photographic analog of more naked, and who doesn't like more naked?
OK, so what?
Nothing in here is about photography. It's 100% about engineering your social situation.
But here's a puzzler for you: Isn't great photography supposed to be pretty much about social engineering? Doesn't that great iconic image create a social impact, and isn't that pretty much the point?
So why do we feel it's cheap and stupid to generate a desirable reaction with a naked girl, but it's awesome and cool to do it another way? I don't have an answer here, but I'm gonna noodle on it.