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 user’s followers 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 or rank higher on your list 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 to see who they are 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 ordered 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 comments, saves, shares, and the likes list.
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 on Instagram 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 and followings, they could make their way to the top of the list.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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 sorting 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.
Sort the followers 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 or you’re following 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.
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:
Get started with these tips and see how the Instagram Following List Order Algorithm can do wonders for your marketing efforts.
You can do what you need to make the Instagram following list order algorithm work for your clients, but they can still lose followers because of these potential reasons.
Stale, run-of-the-mill, and repetitive content can get boring fast.
That said, sharing similar-looking content can cause content fatigue in your client’s followers—leading them to hit that Unfollow button.
So keep your client’s content fresh by mixing up your content and throwing in unexpected elements now and then.
Doing so makes your clients’ content interesting and captures the audience’s attention—keeping followers coming back for more.
The hard truth is, people can come and go and follow and unfollow anytime with no rhyme or reason—even if you don’t do anything negative.
It’s nothing personal.
Some people may want to clean up their feeds, reassess their interests, and even hit Unfollow by accident.
It’s just the way things are in the Instagram world sometimes.
Regularly posting content is an excellent way to stay within the radar of your clients’ followers. Even Instagram considers this a good thing.
But the focus shouldn’t be on churning as many content as possible without ensuring quality.
After all, if your clients’ feeds are filled with sub-par content, followers aren’t likely to be impressed. It can cause them to rethink why they’re following your clients or, worse, lead them to hit the Unfollow button.
So, prioritize quality over quantity.
Set a regular posting schedule but ensure you’re dishing out top-quality content that can hold the current followers’ attention while gaining your clients more fans.
Many Instagram users are generally into what’s popular at the moment.
Something that’s buzzing today may not be as popular in a day or two.
If your clients fall behind on current industry or niche trends, followers can see them as outdated and bow out from being loyal followers.
Know the latest trends and pivot your clients’ content strategy to keep up and stay relevant in the eyes of their followers.
Let’s face it, not all Instagram followers are authentic—with some turning out to be bots and fake accounts.
One reason for a sudden dip in your clients’ following can be Instagram doing a bit of spring cleaning by removing suspicious or inactive accounts.
That’s a good thing since your clients will engage with real users and gain genuine results.
Yes, your clients are great, and they have every right to promote themselves and their brands on their Instagram feeds.
But while self-promotion is okay, making every post on Instagram about how fabulous and wonderful your clients are can be a real turn-off, causing followers to jump ship.
Instagram users are curious about your clients but want to know more beyond the bells and whistles.
The key is to balance authentic, personal content and self-promotion posts.
Mix up your clients’ content to show who they are behind their brands or influencer personas.
It can humanize your clients, making them more relatable and easier to connect with—which is always great for boosting engagement.
Effective audience engagement isn’t one-sided.
If your clients are not interacting or engaging with audiences, such as replying to comments or even acknowledging their existence, followers are likely to lose interest and unfollow.
Remember, Instagram is a social media platform so failing to engage with followers defeats the purpose of being on the platform.
Engage with followers to connect with them and build a community and followers who will stay and potentially increase.
Instagram’s algorithm, including the algorithm that sets the order of your followers, is constantly changing—and sometimes, the changes can impact the visibility of your clients’ posts.
The less visible your clients’ posts are, the higher the chances of their engagement rates declining.
And we already know that the lack of engagement can lead to a disconnect between your clients and their followers—potentially leading to mass unfollowing.
So be on the lookout for the latest updates and what the Instagram algorithm considers relevant to adapt your clients’ content and engagement strategies accordingly.
This way, your clients don’t miss opportunities to stay visible and engage their followers effectively.
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.
But you can see who someone follows by checking their following list if you are connected or if their account is public.
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.
Navigate to the user’s Get Instagram post page or comment to view the most recent followers.
Open their followers’ list, and Instagram displays the list in chronological order, such as the newest to oldest followers displayed from top to bottom.
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.
Restricting users or accounts doesn’t have an effect on follower or following list visibility.
The restricted users can still view your Instagram followers or following list.
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.
Manage your clients’ Instagram and other social media content, profiles, conversations, engagement, and followers with one powerful platform—Vista Social.
The modern Social Media Management (SMM) platform offers essential and advanced features to streamline your workflows.
Vista Social’s key features include the following:
Vista Social offers more features, from a centralized content calendar to a direct product tagging in Instagram posts via the platform. Create a Vista Social account now to power up your IG marketing campaigns.
About the Author
Jimmy Rodela is a social media and content marketing consultant with over 9 years of experience, with work appearing on sites such as Business.com, Yahoo, SEMRush, and SearchEnginePeople. He specializes in social media, content marketing, SaaS, small business strategy, marketing automation, and content development.
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