by Jimmy Rodela
8 min to read
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Must-read: How to Make a Reel with Photos
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.
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.
Manage the order of your client’s following and followers list on Instagram with the tactics below.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Instagram uses an interaction-based algorithm to sort the following list by default. The app also lets you organize the following list chronologically.
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.
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!
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