Decoding Instagram Following List Order: How It Works

Decoding Instagram Following List Order

The Instagram following list order isn’t just a random sequence of names—it reflects a complex algorithm operating behind the scenes.

If you’ve ever spent time scrolling through your list and pondering why specific profiles appear before others, you’re in for a treat. Much like a seasoned magician, Instagram has a few tricks up its sleeve, and today, we’re pulling back the curtain.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll journey through the digital maze of Instagram, decoding the factors and nuances that determine the position of each profile on your list.

So, buckle up and prepare for a deep dive into the intricacies of Instagram’s ever-evolving system.

Understanding the Instagram Following List Order Algorithm

Instagram sorts any user’s following list order by default based on mutual interaction. It means the accounts that users interact with the most by liking their posts, tagging them in stories, and engaging via direct messages and comments will appear at the top of the following list.

When examining your profile, Instagram also employs the default sorting principle. You’ll encounter a ‘Sort by Default’ arrangement upon viewing your following list. This order shows the relevant and closest accounts with whom you connect and engage the most at the top of your list.

However, Instagram extends the flexibility to alter this sequence, presenting two additional options for sorting your Instagram following list order. These options are:

  • Sort by the latest
  • Sort by the earliest

Steps to Order Your Instagram Following List Manually

1. Log in to your Instagram profile.

2. Tap the “Following” option; here, you’ll notice two arrows alongside the “Sort by default” label.

Change the order of IG following list

3. Click the arrows, and you’ll be presented with three options.

4. Choose your desired option to effortlessly arrange your Instagram following list order – by default, latest, or earliest.

Select the Instagram following list order

As mentioned, the ‘Sort by Default’ option arranges the following list based on accounts’ relevance, engagement, and interactions. Opting for the ‘Latest’ option will organize your following list according to the most recent accounts you’ve followed.

Alternatively, selecting the ‘Earliest’ option prompts the IG algorithm to arrange your following list order according to the earliest accounts you’ve added/followed.

How does Instagram Sort the Followers List in 2023?

Instagram consistently fine-tunes its algorithm to elevate the user experience. As of 2023, the platform has incorporated a fusion of artificial intelligence and intricate variables to determine your followers’ list order.

This is how Instagram followers’ order algorithm works:

  1. Instagram’s algorithm arranges your followers’ list based on three key factors. These factors include recent high levels of interaction, the relevance of followers, and the nature of your relationships and connections.
  2. Your ‘Followers’ list displays accounts that engage with you extensively through likes, comments, or direct messages.
  3. When reviewing the followers’ list of other users, the accounts that follow you and the user in question and actively engage with the profiles are at the top. These accounts are actively interacting and connected.
  4. The algorithm arranges their followers alphabetically for Instagram accounts with 200 followers or fewer. This arrangement uses the users’ complete profile names instead of their usernames.

Instagram followers list order

Yet, it’s the Instagram algorithm’s fault if you see your or any other account’s ‘Followers List’ and notice that it’s randomly sorted and not in a particular order.

Factors Affecting Instagram Followers/Following List Order

Instagram’s followers or following list sorting algorithm provides users a personalized experience by showing content and accounts tailored to their preferences and interests.

The platform doesn’t specifically disclose the inner workings of the followers/following list order algorithms. However, it utilizes a blend of factors that collaborate to determine the order of your followers and the following list.

Here are some of the factors that contribute to the sorting of the IG follower/following list:

1. Mutual Interaction

One of the key factors influencing the followers and following list order is mutual interaction. When you frequently engage with a particular user’s content through likes, comments, shares, and direct interactions, Instagram recognizes this as a strong connection.

Hence, that account is more likely to appear in your following list, ensuring you stay updated with their posts. And the same happens with your followers. The more they connect with you, the more the chances that you will remain at the top of their following lists.

2. Mutual Followers

If you’re viewing another Instagram account’s followers list, you’ll see the mutual followers at the start of the list. Mutual followers are the accounts that follow you and the profile you’re currently viewing.

Even if you don’t give these accounts a follow-up, they’ll stay at the top based on mutual connections.

And if we talk about your following list, then the accounts with mutual followers rank higher on your list. This feature aims to foster meaningful connections and encourage mutual engagement among users.

3. Accounts you Follow

When viewing another Instagram user’s following list, common and mutual followings appear at the top. Simply put, the Instagram algorithm lists the accounts you both follow at the top of the following list.

4. Geo-location

Instagram considers geo-location data as a factor when sorting the followers/following list order. This factor prioritizes accounts that share the exact location as yours, leading to their higher placement on your and other accounts’ followers and following lists.

For example, if a person follows you and resides in the same country, city, or town as you. Then, their account will show at the top of the list due to the mutual location.

To illustrate further, suppose you’re viewing an Australia-based account while you’re situated in the USA. In this case, the profiles with a USA location will appear at the top of that Australian account’s followers/following list.

This fosters a sense of community and allows you to discover content from your regional creators.

5. Account Activity

The algorithm also considers the activity level of the accounts on Instagram. Active accounts that consistently post and engage with other users are more likely to appear higher on your following list, and the same goes for you.

The more active you are on the platform, the higher you’ll appear on your followers’ following list. By counting this factor, Instagram prefers active accounts to help users stay engaged with fresh, up-to-date content.

6. Direct Interactions and Story Views

How you engage with a specific account via direct messages, comments, or Instagram stories impacts the following list order. This engagement signals a robust and direct connection.

As a result, the algorithm will boost the ranking of those accounts with whom you interact directly on your following list. This makes it easier for you to keep in touch with them.

7. Your Recent Followers

Your new followers might experience a temporary elevation in their placement within your followers’ list. This occurs irrespective of whether you reciprocally follow them or not.

This feature lets you quickly notice and engage with new connections, fostering a close relationship.

8. Famous Accounts with High Followers/Following

Influential accounts with relatively higher followers and following than others receive higher visibility on your list. These accounts would include verified accounts, celebrities, or brands, as Instagram views these accounts as authoritative.

On the contrary, accounts with fewer followers appear at the bottom. It ensures you connect with the accounts that matter most and discover new and exciting content relevant to your interests.

Benefits of Instagram Following List Order Algorithm

Instagram’s following list order algorithm offers several benefits to creators and marketers and can genuinely level up their IG marketing efforts. Here are some of the key advantages:

1. Personalized Experience

One of the primary benefits of the Instagram following list order algorithm is that it offers a personalized experience to each user.

The more your followers show interest in and engage with your content, the more the Instagram algorithm offers it to them. This increases the creator’s marketing efforts, enabling them to reach a broader, more personalized audience.

2. Enhanced Engagement

This algorithm helps you appear at the top of your followers’ following list to help you enhance engagement. You must strategically interact with your followers, like their posts, leave comments on the reels, or engage in a healthy conversation via DMs.

All these things contribute to one’s account’s visibility, bringing more eyeballs to your content. Hence, knowing how the algorithm works can enhance your chances of being a top creator on the following list of your followers.

By posting regular and helpful content, you can get the attention of those followers and enhance your overall Instagram engagement.

3. Prioritizes Close Connections

The Instagram sort-by-default algorithm prioritizes accounts at the top with whom you have a strong connection.

This means that content from friends, family, and frequently interacted accounts appears higher on your feed. This ensures that you get updates from your closest connections.

4. Collaboration with Content Creators/Influencers

If you collaborate with content creators in your niche and influencers with a large audience, you can readily increase your account visibility and reach a broader audience.

In that way, the Instagram algorithm improves your chances of appearing on their followers’ following list, increasing your content’s exposure.

5. Efficient Content Discovery

With this algorithm in place, Instagram frequently recommends new accounts and content that aligns with its user’s interests. It showcases relevant content from accounts with similar themes or niches to new, interested users. This organically fosters engagement, grows your account, and keeps users engaged for extended periods.

Creating user-friendly, engaging, and authentic content can enhance your chances of appearing on the recommended list and being discovered by more people.

6. Reduced Spam and Irrelevant Content

In the past, Instagram’s chronological feed led to a flood of content that might not be relevant to the user. The algorithm filters out spammy or less engaging content, ensuring that users see posts from accounts they care about the most.

7. Promotes Active Users

The Instagram algorithm considers various factors, including user preferences, engagement levels, and account activity. As a result, it prioritizes users who generate consistent content and maintain a high degree of engagement and involvement on the platform.

As users engage more with content, the algorithm gains a deeper understanding of their preferences, prompting it to showcase content to more likely interested users.

This approach also contributes to higher user satisfaction and retention rates. Consistently producing content that resonates with the users’ interests encourages them to remain engaged with the account over time.

8. Supports Local and Small Businesses

Through geolocation-based factors, the algorithm helps promote local businesses and creators. This enables them to gain visibility among their target audience.

In short, the Instagram following list order algorithm benefits users and content creators by providing a personalized experience, promoting meaningful engagement, and fostering content discovery.

Wrap Up

Instagram’s following list order algorithm constantly changes and is hard to crack. Regardless, understanding how the algorithm works and arranges the followers/following list is essential. It helps the platform’s users maximize their engagement and discover new content.

While the process may seem mysterious, the benefits of this algorithm ensure a more engaging and tailored Instagram experience for everyone.

Want a simple yet effective solution to handle your Instagram account? Try SocialBu, an all-in-one social media management and automation tool. From scheduling posts to responding to your followers and getting followers’ insights, SocialBu is here to assist you in uplifting your social media game.

Frequently Asked Questions


What does Instagram’s Sort by Default Mean on the Following List?

“Sort by default” on Instagram’s following list refers to the default order in which the list of people you’re following is displayed and listed. When you view your following list, Instagram may sort it a certain way without any specific criteria you’ve chosen.

Are Instagram Followers Always Shown in Order?

The short answer is no. Instagram’s algorithm dynamically updates the order based on various factors, providing a personalized experience. Unlike the following list, the platform doesn’t offer a manual option to order your followers’ list.

Is Instagram’s Following still in Chronological Order?

No, Instagram uses factors like user preferences, engagement, and interaction levels to sort the following list order. However, it offers sorting options to arrange your following list order chronologically.

Can I Order My Instagram Following List?

Yes, you can order your Instagram following list. Besides the ‘sort by default’ option, Instagram provides users two more options to sort their following list order manually.

Why do Instagram’s Following and Followers List Orders Change Sometimes?

Instagram continuously improves its algorithm to enhance the user experience. This can lead to occasional changes in the followers/following list order.

Can I See Another Instagram User’s Following List in Order?

No, you can’t see another IG user’s following list in order. The Instagram algorithm respects users’ privacy and prevents others from viewing the following list order. You can only see a user’s total number of followers and followings and a partial list of mutual followers and followings (accounts that both you and the other user follow).

Rabiaa Nawaz
Rabiaa Nawaz
As an SEO blog copywriter, I write captivating yet SEO-optimized content that grabs the readers' attention and is loved by Google. At SocialBu, my responsibility is to craft informative content that truly aligns with the platform's services, brings in more conversions, and assists its readers/users in upping their social media game.

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