I’m not active on social media, so I chose to use photos from @boots_and_bear, an Instagram account for two cats managed by my sister-in-law.
Since the Instagram account is growing relatively quickly, I made sure to choose photos from the past month, so that there isn’t too much effect from follower growth. Instagram doesn’t store historical follower data–otherwise, I would normalize engagement as (likes + comments)/followers.
I noticed in selecting the photos that the ones with highest engagement seemed to have a few characteristics in common. For example, all the photos that did well were in almost a portrait style, where the cat(s) are focused on the camera. Additionally, they tended to feature warmer colors in the background, and they also had cats with very dilated pupils. They generally did not feature any toys or cats in motion. Finally, having captions that pretended to be from the point-of-view of the cats was the best-performing style. I think this can be somewhat unified into characteristics that make the viewer feel comfort and companionship.
I asked my sister-in-law for some of their photos and she let me look at a list of all photos, both taken recently and yet-to-be-posted and posted way in the past before any significant number of people saw them. I selected three that I felt followed by the aforementioned pattern, which can be seen above.