If you’ve taken a look at your Instagram Followings and Followers list, you may be wondering how it’s sorted. At first glance, it may be seemingly random, but there’s actually a lot more to it.
In past years, Instagram arranged your followers and following list in order based on who you followed recently. But now, you may be intrigued by seeing certain profiles appear at the top of the list, but others buried deep below. Although Instagram hasn’t officially announced how these lists are precisely ordered, it’s clear that there’s a complex algorithm behind it.
You may have even “stalked” or closely examined a friend’s profile. By taking a quick glance at their followings and followers list, you may be curious to know why some profiles are at the top of the list while others are at the bottom.
Many Instagram users look at these lists to try and see who’s a recent follower. But you’ll soon realize that this isn’t a reliable method. In fact, there’s a wide variety of factors that determine the order and it’s sorted differently in each list. Let’s get right into it.
How the Instagram Following List is Ordered in 2023
Currently in 2023, for third-party accounts that you’re viewing, Instagram orders the Following list based on mutual interaction. For example, accounts that you often like or receive likes from are prioritized towards the top.
In addition, if you DM each other, comment, tag or frequently visit their profile, the account will appear towards the top of the list. This is true for other accounts you’re viewing, but what about your own?
If you look at your own profile’s Instagram Followings list, you’re now able to sort it. While you can’t do this with other accounts you’re viewing, you can do it with your own while you’re logged in.
Simply click on the Following number on your profile page, and there will be two arrows you can click. This will bring up the “Sort by” feature that will let you sort by the latest or earliest accounts you’ve followed, based on date.
How the Instagram Followers List is Ordered in 2023
There’s a bit more behind the scenes in regards to how the Instagram Followers list is ordered.
For many accounts with less than 200 followers, the Instagram Followers list will be alphabetically ordered by profile names. Not by actual usernames, but by the specific name that’s listed on their profile. If they haven’t entered any name and/or intentionally left it blank, their profile will appear at the very top of the followers list, followed by alphabetically ordered first names.
But this isn’t always the case, even with some accounts that have less than 200 followers. In fact, this is mostly true for older accounts that were created several years ago. Now, if you examine a followers list and you notice it’s seemingly random, Instagram’s algorithm is to blame. Recently, this is actually what we’re seeing happen more often than not.
In 2023, Instagram uses artificial intelligence (AI) and a complex algorithm to determine the order of the followers list. Three important factors are taken into consideration. These include your relationship, relevance and recent interactions.
Simply put, Instagram’s algorithm lists accounts at the top of the followers list that you’re most likely to interact with, based on profiles you most commonly view, message, or DM. If you haven’t necessarily interacted with any of them, Instagram may base the order on shared interests.
How the Instagram Followers List Algorithm Works
While Instagram doesn’t directly communicate specific details on how the followers list is ordered, we’ve spent countless hours researching and analyzing a wide range of accounts and their followers lists. Ultimately, we’ve discovered quite a few factors that determine the order:
1. People You Follow
If you’re looking at a third-party account such as your friend’s Instagram followers list, you’re most likely to see people you follow appear first. Accounts that you, yourself follow through your own account will be at the top. Instagram shows mutual followers as the most relevant at the top of the list. Simply put, if you follow the same people that your friend follows, you’ll see them first.
Another important factor that will display certain accounts at the top of the list is based on interaction. An interaction can be a DM, like or comment. For example, if you and another account often likes or comments on the same posts, you’re most likely going to find them at the top of the followers list. Regardless of if you’re following them or not, Instagram will compare your interaction habits and position these accounts first.
3. Mutual Followers
If accounts that follow you and also the person of the followers list that you’re viewing, they will appear towards the top. Even if you don’t follow them back, accounts that follow you and the account you’re spying on will be prioritized.
This is true when the person is being followed by an account that you also happen to follow. When Instagram sees that you’re mutually following the same accounts, it’s a clear indication that you share a similar interest.
4. Accounts that Follow You
Another important factor that Instagram’s algorithm takes into account is the accounts that follow you. If you’re browsing a followers lists, you’ll likely notice accounts that are already following you.
If this is the case, it’s because Instagram assumes you may already be familiar with them. Therefore, they’ll make the accounts that follow you appear towards the top of the list so you have a better chance of viewing their profile and possibly following them shortly thereafter.
5. Accounts that Stalk You
On an account’s followers list, you may assume that other profiles that commonly view yours will appear towards the top. This isn’t true if they simply often view your profile without liking or commenting. However, if they don’t follow you, but sometimes comment or like your posts, they’ll most likely be prioritized towards the top of the followers list.
Simply put, viewing a profile isn’t a sole-indicator that they should appear at the top. But if they interact with you in any other way, it’s an indication to the Instagram algorithm to position them higher than would otherwise be.
6. Accounts That Have Recently Followed You
Instagram accounts that have recently followed your own account is another factor that the algorithm looks at. When you’re viewing a followers list, people that have recently followed you will be prioritized next. Instagram sees this as a clear indicator that they have a connection to you.
Even if you don’t follow the account back, it’s an important variable that shows a connection. Ultimately, this may even lead you to follow them back, which will then tell the algorithm that they should prioritize the account even more.
The actual geo-location of other accounts is another factor that Instagram looks at with their followers list algorithm. An account that shares the same location with your own is given priority. If you check a followers list and there are no other traits you share, the physical location is taken into consideration.
For example, if you’re located in the USA, but the account you’re viewing is UK-based, USA users will appear towards the top of the followers list. However, this is only apparent when the geo-location is somewhat close by; typically by city, state, province or country. Truthfully, geo-location isn’t that big of factor, but it’s still a factor, albeit a small one.
8. Lots of Posts
Accounts with a lot of posts tend to appear towards the top. Even if you don’t have a close connection to them, an account that has a lot of posts shows Instagram that these accounts are very active. Therefore, they will tend to prioritize them above accounts that aren’t used as often. When a person has an account with hundreds or thousands of posts, it indicates users who spend a lot of time on Instagram.
9. Popular Accounts with More Followers and Following
When Instagram sees accounts that have a lot of followers or followings, the algorithm tends to trust them a bit more. Because of this, the most popular accounts, even if you don’t interact with them, are given a higher position than others that have a low follower or following count. In fact, the smallest sized accounts tend to be at the bottom of the followers list.
10. Verified Accounts
Although it’s somewhat hard to explain, we found that verified accounts tend to appear much lower on the followers list than others. You’d think it would be the other way around. However, we always notice verified accounts with lots of followers to appear at the bottom of the list.
While it’s unknown as to why they do this, it seems to always be the case. One possible theory is that Instagram tends to associate verified accounts with “brand” accounts. Therefore, they may assume you don’t want to necessarily interact with brands in the same manner you’d interact with accounts for actual people.
Instagram’s Followings & Followers List Algorithm is Always Changing
The truth of the matter is, Instagram’s algorithm that determines the followings and followers list is always changing. Just last year, the algorithm was completely different than it is today in 2023. While it may seem complicated and a bit contrived, Instagram’s main goal is to keep interaction at an all time high.
Simply put, they want you to stay on the Instagram app as long as possible. It looks good for their advertisers and their overall statistics. That said, the order of the followings and followers list is seemingly based on who Instagram thinks you’ll browse or interact with more often than not. In the end, they want you to be deeply invested in the app for as long as possible.