Instagram Following List Order Algorithm Explained [2023]

Updated on September 29, 2023

12 min to read

Content Writer

Published October 12, 2022

Instagram Following List Order Algorithm Explained [2023]
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If you’re confused about the Instagram following list order, the first three sections of this guide will show you how the list order algorithm works. 

This guide also covers proven strategies for managing and re-ordering your client’s followers and following lists.

Everything can be done using only the free mobile app—no need to invest in premium Instagram marketing tools!

Let’s get started. 

Table of contents

What you’ll learn:

  • How the Instagram followers list is sorted in 2023
  • How the Instagram following list is sorted in 2023
  • How the followers/following list Instagram algorithm works
  • The order of followers on Instagram: Why should you care?
  • How to order your following list on Instagram
  • Tips to make the Instagram following list order algorithm work for you 
  • Instagram following list order: Frequently Asked Questions
  • Build a healthy follower base with Vista Social

How the Instagram followers list is sorted in 2023

Instagram organizes the follower’s list based on a handful of factors. 

The followers list of new accounts, specifically those with less than 200 followers, is usually alphabetically ordered. This uses the registered full names of Instagram users—not their usernames or “handles,” which are needed for logging in. 

Instagram sorting follower list alphabetically by registered names
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Instagram automatically sorts an account’s followers list once enough data has been gathered on three aspects: recent interactions, relationships, and follower relevance. Each aspect is influenced by multiple factors, which will be analyzed by Instagram’s algorithm before sorting the follower’s list. 

The faster a new account builds connections, generates engagement, and garners interactions, the quicker Instagram will be able to sort its list of followers. 

That’s why most old and active accounts have a followers list (even those with less than 200 followers) that appear randomly-sorted. 

If your client’s followers list isn’t in alphabetical order anymore, you’ll find that user accounts at the top are the ones who interact with your client more frequently. They may give your client more likes, write frequent comments on their posts, answers most of their Instagram poll questions, and so on. 

Do stalkers appear first on the Instagram followers list?

No, being a social media “stalker” doesn’t propel your client’s Instagram account to the top of someone else’s followers list. 

A social media stalker is someone who routinely checks your client’s Instagram profile and views their content, including stories, reels, and feed posts. 

While these interactions are clear user engagement signals, Instagram orders your client’s followers list based on their online relationship. That includes your client’s interactions with the Instagram account (the stalker) in question. 

How the Instagram following list is sorted in 2023

Contrary to the followers list, the Instagram following list order is more straightforward. 

The order of your client’s Instagram following list is sorted according to mutual interactions with other users. This is Instagram’s “Default” method of organizing the following list, which is meant to help users find their closest connections. 

Instagram sorting following list by mutual interactions.
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It’s worth noting that your client’s following list may look different when viewed through other accounts. 

The exact, default order of your client’s following list is only visible to you, your client, and anyone else that possesses their Instagram credentials. 

For other users, your client’s following list will be sorted according to mutual connections. This is designed to help Instagram users find relevant contacts they frequently interact with—in the same circle. 

How the followers/following list Instagram algorithm works

Instagram never publicly released the details of their followers/following list algorithms. 

However, widespread evidence and the independent studies conducted by the social media community—including Instagram influencers—reveal the following to be the biggest factors affecting the order of the followers/following list: 

1. Mutual followers

When viewing another person’s followers or following list, mutual followers will appear at or near the top of the list.

Mutual followers are Instagram accounts that follow your client as well as the account you’re viewing. 

Your client doesn’t have to follow these users back for them to appear. This is intended by Instagram to help users identify people they may know based on their association with the account being inspected. 

2. Mutual followings

When checking someone else’s following list, Instagram may bump up the position of profiles your client also follows. 

Mutual Instagram followings help users identify shared interests between them and another user. 

For example, your client and another brand may follow the same group of food influencers. When viewing the followers list of one of those influencers, your client and the other brand may find each other near the top.

3. Mutual interaction data 

Interactions on Instagram include likes, comments, saves, and shares. 

The more your client interacts with another Instagram account, the higher their positions will be in each other’s followers/following lists. 

Users that your client doesn’t follow may still appear at the top of the list if they frequently engage your client’s account. However, they will be overtaken by users who are followed by your client AND often interact with your client’s Instagram content. 

Instagram interactions that indicate a personal relationship, such as tags and Direct Messages (DMs), also heavily influence the followers and following lists. For Instagram, these interactions mean that the relationship between two users goes beyond the social media app.

4. Recent followers

On your client’s follower list, users who recently followed may get listed near the top—just below relevant users who interact with your client frequently. 

A recent follower may not have interacted with your brand before. But if they’re active on Instagram, published a lot of posts, and have a decent number of followers, they could make their way to the top of the list. 

5. Geo location 

Another factor that can put Instagram users at the top of your client’s following list is geo location. 

Someone who is located closer to your client city-wise is more likely to show up at the top.  

For instance, accounts located in the U.S. are likely to appear at the top of your US-based client’s following list. 

The same goes for users and clients in the same cities 

The chances of appearing at the top of the following list are also higher if the followers interacted with your client’s account before, on top of being in the same location. 

6. A high following and number of followers 

Users with more followers or those that follow a lot of Instagram accounts are more likely to appear at the top of your client’s following list. 

Instagram accounts with smaller followers and the number of people followed are likely to be placed at the bottom of your client’s following list. 

7.  Lots of posts

Another factor that can position followers and following in your client accounts at the top of the list is the number of posts. 

Instagram accounts with a high number of posts are more likely to get placed at the top of the followers and following list. 

One reason for this is that users with many posts have more content, which means people are likely to stay on the feed and profile to explore. 

Essentially, if your client’s account has many posts, chances are high that Instagram’s algorithm can place it at the top of follower lists since it can offer more content. 

8. Popular followers/following

Lastly, popular Instagram users may easily find their way to the top half of anyone’s followers and following lists. 

Interestingly, several users and publications report that verified accounts (blue check mark) appear near the bottom. However, they can be pushed up your client’s following or followers list through frequent interactions.

The order of followers on Instagram: Why should you care?

The order of the followers and following lists may not seem like a big deal. But if you know how to use them, they can be used to further social media marketing goals. 

1. Show off the most influential followers

Having popular and verified Instagram accounts at the top of the list lets you build authority by association. 

Following relevant influencers, thought leaders, and experts shows that your client is in-tune with the community surrounding their niche. If popular users follow your client, showing them at the top of the followers list elevates the brand’s image and credibility. 

2. Keep Instagram content inspirations close

Borrowing inspiration from popular Instagram creators ensures you never run out of content ideas for client campaigns. 

With talented users at the top of your client’s following or followers list, it’s easier to plan your next Instagram post. Just look at their profiles and analyze their top-performing posts to plan your own content pillars for Instagram.

Instagram implemented a feature for finding creators and businesses called “Categories.” You’ll find it at the top of your client’s following list. 

Easily find Instagram creator and businesses.
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While handy, this feature doesn’t include Instagram accounts below a specific popularity threshold. This can be problematic if you regularly obtain content ideas from smaller Instagram profiles. 

3. Screenshot purposes

Social media marketing agencies, “gurus,” and bloggers may need to take screenshots of the Instagram app for specific content topics.

Rather than a list of different accounts, you may want to use screenshots that show popular Instagram profiles. Maneuvering Instagram’s algorithm and switching up your followers and following lists will get this done. 

Instagram screenshots can be embedded in blog posts, compiled into reels, shared as stories, and more. 

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4. Identify your hottest prospects

The algorithm-based followers and following lists make it easy for businesses to identify their most active connections. 

This can lead to high-value leads that expressed strong purchase intent through multiple social media interactions. 

If your client’s top followers are influencers or accounts with a sizeable following, you can seize the opportunity to work on a collaborative project. This will help your client win their target audience’s trust, raise brand awareness, get more followers, and generate more conversions. 

5. Gauge performance of recent content

Publishing Instagram content pieces may lead to a boost in followers. However, it’s only beneficial if you draw the attention of the right kind of audience. 

Looking at your client’s followers list and analyzing recent followers help you gauge the effectiveness of your content strategy in generating high-quality leads. 

If you only attract users who don’t fit your client’s ideal customer profile, you may need to rethink your Instagram content strategy. 

Don’t forget that you can also evaluate your strategy by checking if your client is gaining or losing followers on Instagram. Again, a quick look at the followers list from their Instagram page will point you in the right direction. 

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How to order your following or followers list on Instagram

Manage the order of your client’s following and followers list on Instagram with the tactics below. 

1. Interact with your top profiles

Frequently interact and engage the Instagram profiles you want to appear at the top of your client’s lists.

Remember, the only way to influence the default order of your client’s following or followers list is to do it naturally. 

Once you identify your target accounts, develop an ongoing relationship-building strategy that consists of regular interactions, like: 

  • Writing constructive comments on their Instagram posts.
  • Exchanging regular DMs. 
  • Consistently liking and sharing their content. 

Streamline your relationship-building efforts with a social media management platform like Vista Social

With the consolidated “Inbox” feature, stay on top of social media conversations across all linked accounts. 

Vista Social's inbox feature

2. Arrange your following list chronologically

Arrange your client’s following list in chronological order using the Instagram app—no need for third-party IG tools.

On the app, head to your client’s profile page, and tap ‘Following.’ 

Switch from the default order by tapping the ‘Sort by’ icon right above the list of followed accounts. 

Tap to change the order list.
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On the pop-up bottom menu, tap the order you prefer to refresh your following list. 

‘Date followed: latest’ will prioritize the accounts you recently followed. ‘Date followed: earliest,’ on the other hand, starts the list with the accounts you followed first. 

Tap to change order to your preference.
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3. Use social media interaction posts 

Publish content pieces that encourage other users to interact with your posts. 

This strategy is perfect if you want your client’s followers list to reveal high-quality prospects. 

Some of the best social media interaction post ideas for Instagram are: 

  • Instagram Stories. Use interactive stickers like polls, questions, and the “Add yours” sticker to stir up interactions. These interactive assets are also helpful in extracting feedback from followers and acquiring user-generated content. 
  • Hashtag contests. Obtain truckloads of comments on Instagram posts by running a hashtag contest. Other than user engagement, hashtag contests also maximize your client’s reach and discoverability on social media. 
  • Reel response videos. Use the remix feature to publish response videos to Instagram Reels followed by someone else. 

If you have a list of priority accounts to bump up in your followers or following list, be sure they see your content first. You can share it with them via DM or mention your content in a comment. 

4. Build mutual connections

Lastly, aim to build a similar following and followers list to increase the position of your target accounts on Instagram. 

Head to their profile and tap ‘Following’ for a list of potential mutual connections. From there, simply tap the blue ‘Follow’ button to the right of each account—working your way from top to bottom. 

Check the following list to build mutual connection.
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Tips to make the Instagram following list order algorithm work for you 

Do you want to rock the Instagram game? 

Here are some sweet tips to get your client’s brand noticed by making Instagram’s following list order algorithm work for you:

  • Make your client’s profile pop. Jazz up your clients’ profile with a catchy bio, a cool profile pic, and keywords that scream their brand. This way, your client’s account will appear higher on your followers’ “Following” list.
  • Slide into follower DMs. If you have full control over your clients’ IG accounts, engage with their followers by responding to comments, double-tapping posts, and DMing them. The more you engage with client followers, the more likely they are to interact with your client’s account, and voila! Your clients are on top of their followers’ “Following” list.
  • Keep it on fire. Keep your client’s content hot and fresh, and post regularly. The more your followers engage with your client’s content, the higher their visibility on their “Following” list.
  • Hashtag like a boss. Use hashtags that are relevant to your client’s brand to get more eyes on their content. It can also help your client’s content appear higher on their followers’ “Following” list and get noticed on the Explore page.
  • Buddy up with influencers. Collaborate with influencers who have a following larger than your client’s to boost their brand’s visibility on Instagram. It helps your clients’ account appear higher on their followers’ “Following” list and expose them to wider audiences. 

Get started with these tips and see how the Instagram Following List Order Algorithm can do wonders for your marketing efforts.

Instagram following list order: Frequently Asked Questions

Is Instagram following list in order of interaction? 

The order of Instagram’s following list is largely based on frequent social media interactions. Profiles you usually engage with through likes, comments, DMs, and shares are likely to appear at the top. 

Is Instagram following in chronological order 2023? 

Instagram uses an interaction-based algorithm to sort the following list by default. The app also lets you organize the following list chronologically. 

Can you see what someone likes on Instagram?

Instagram used to include a feature that lets you find content other users recently interacted with. Today, this information is private and can’t be unveiled by other users. 

Why does Instagram often place verified accounts at the bottom of the following list?

It’s unclear why Instagram does this. 

One theory is that Instagram often associates verified accounts with brand accounts. 

It means that Instagram assumes accounts don’t necessarily want to interact with brands like users normally would with actual people, so it does not tend to put verified accounts at the top. 

Can you view an Instagram user’s following in order?


Navigate to the user’s Get Instagram post page or comment to view the most recent followers.

Open their followers’ list and you can see the list in chronological order, such as the newest to oldest followers displayed from top to bottom. 

Can you hide your client’s following list on Instagram?


Open the profile icon at the bottom-right corner (on the mobile app). Select the three horizontal lines at the top-right and open Settings. 

Tap Privacy and swipe the Private Account slider to On. It limits the visibility of the account’s Stories, posts, and following lists only to followers. 

It doesn’t technically hide the following list but only makes it available to view for users already following the account. 

Can restricted accounts see who your clients follow?

Restricting users or accounts don’t have an effect on follower or following list visibility. 

The restricted users can still view the lists. 

Can you see someone’s Instagram followers list if the account is private?


There’s no trick or tool that can show you a private Instagram account’s followers list. 

The only way to find out is to send the user a follow request and wait to be accepted to view the account’s following list.

Build a healthy follower base with Vista Social 

Managing conversations isn’t the only way to use Vista Social to manage your followers or following lists.

Vista Social also lets you schedule Instagram content according to optimal posting times.

The platform also offers free hashtag suggestions, user engagement analytics, and social media listening to help you manage your client’s followers and following lists. Learn more by creating a free Vista Social account and using it yourself!

About the Author

Content Writer

Jimmy Rodela is a social media and content marketing consultant with over 9 years of experience, with work appearing on sites such as, Yahoo, SEMRush, and SearchEnginePeople. He specializes in social media, content marketing, SaaS, small business strategy, marketing automation, and content development.

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