Ah, popularity...I think it's a topic that can be made relevant to the site by the sheer volume of teenagers who use it. Obviously, they aren't as vocal and mostly just ask questions about why someone doesn't like them, but I like addressing teens...it's a time of hope where they think anything is possible. They are bitter and jaded yet at least not hopefully.
Here are some thing that, having gone through my teen years, I kind of wish I had known going in about popularity because when i was 15 it confused the hell out of me.
You don't try to be "cool" cool tries to be you.
This is a subconcious mantra of the popular people. They don't buy that leather jacket because they think they will look cool in it--that would be the jacket bestowing coolness on them. They feel like the coolest person on earth so of course they would buy that leather jacket. The difference seems small and pointless but it's actually vastly different. Popular people see cool and desirable as an inner trait reflected outward. People who struggle with others and with trying to be likable think of being cool as something you get and then once you have it, it affects your confidence inward then are frustrated when people don't respond to them any differently or, if they do, that they don't feel any cooler just because they are told they are. For a popular person, THEY are cool everything else is lucky to be graced by them. For an unpopular person, THE OTHER is cool including having the most beautiful girl on your arm and the unpopular person is lucky to be in possesion of them since they enhance him or her into a cool person from someone who was presumably not a cool person.
You're not "too off the mark."
There are two of people who "get the glitch" but one is just too off the mark. By glitch, I mean the glitch that it's the peopole who go in thinking everything about them is cool and act how they want to act instead of trying to act how they think people will react well to...these people are the ones who are socially magnetic. Yet, there's one section of these peopel who just isn't socially calibrated. Something happened in his or her social development and even though they feel confident and comfortable telling jokes, wearing what they like to wear, doing what they like to do...there jokes are so unfunny it makes everyone else uncomfortable, their clothes are just too off the mark from what's cool and pleasing to the eye, and they like to do some really weird stuff like go home and play with their pet rat. A popular person is themselves but forutnatly for them themselves has a sense of humor that, even if its a bit raunchier than others gorier whatever...it is something that people can find funny, his clothes even if he dresses in a suit everyday for no reason somehow looks cool, and people love watching them just do exactly what their id (impulse) tells them to do. They have a Beautiful Mind socially speaking. They are socially developed well, but i strongly believe that the majority of people are on the mark its just that when you're socially developed well it causes you to realize that people are always juding you no matter what you do and it can make a lot of people shy or cover up their shyness by pretending to act confident. It's the rare person who realizes people are juding them and truly decides (not just says it 99 times) that they have nothing to hide and honestly don't care to the point where they forget that people are judging them after once being fully aware of it. Usually, it's just a matter of a snowballing effect such that they experience their shyness much earlier and got over it as where when most people experienced it they were already very confident and it just stayed this way...in any case, i'm sure you're awre of the person who's socially brave but just too off the mark with what he or she says and does...
You ignore those who are unpopular/socially awkward.
Finally, the dark trait that will define you into the popularity league. I have no clue what it is, but I noticed in my teen years that the peopole at the top socially, I mean really really at the top, they would have some thing inside of them where if an unpopular person tried to talk--they would just not hear them. They weren't being rude...it was as if their minds rejected the status before they could even hear what they said. It looked like they honestly had no idea the unpopular pesron spoke...there was absolutely no reaction...not a head turn...not an eye roll...nothing. I don't think this is a way of punishing social mediocrity. I think people who are incredibly socially gifted (wow...that's a thing?...should we care about that thing?) are just operating and percieving on a level so high that if you are too far low a signal they just can't pick it up. You're too far off their energy. It is a strange phenomenon. Someone should write a book about it if they haven't already...
So, teens, hopefully you read this and there's a lot of head nodding (oh yeah! right!) not so much like I'm stating the obvious but hopefully reading your mind a little...pulling out the things you know but that you're not aware you know. Hopefully, this makes why some people are more popular than others a little less mysterious.
***also, when I write in partheses it's a literary device where fictiously another person is speaking who is like a person reading the take while I'm writing on it and verbally interacting and commenting on it.) this should be obvious but i get a lot of dumb opinions and i can forsee someone being like...black phase?! what black people are just a phase to you!? IT'S A LITERARY DEVICE!