Instagram Followers List Algorithm: How Does It Really Work?

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 30, 2024

Want More Real Instagram Followers?

Have you ever experienced such boredom that you indulge in self-stalking on your Instagram profile to see how it appears to others? It may have reached a stage where you even browse your Instagram followers list. 

If yes, you must have observed that the order of your followers is sometimes alphabetically arranged or chronologically. So, what are the criteria for Instagram following list arrangement and everything related? 

This article will walk you through everything you need to know about Instagram following lists, from how it works and hiding your following or followers list to getting targeted followers.

A person seeing his Instagram account

Instagram Following List Order & Algorithm Explained

Instagram organizes a followers list using various factors. For new accounts with 200 or fewer followers, the list is usually in alphabetical order based on registered full names, not usernames or handles. 

Once Instagram collects enough data on relationships, follower relevance, and recent interactions, it automatically sorts the followers’ list using its algorithm. 

The quicker a new Instagram account builds connections and engages with others, the faster Instagram can sort the followers. That’s why many active and old accounts have randomly sorted lists, even with fewer than 200 followers.

If your list of followers isn’t alphabetical, you’ll notice that the top users interact with you frequently with your content.

Unlike the followers list, the order of your following list is easy and more straightforward. It’s sorted based on mutual interactions with other Instagram users and is typically the “default” method of organization, which aims to help you find your closest connections.

It’s important to note that your following list may appear differently when viewed from other accounts.

The precise “default order” of your following list is visible only to you and anyone with your Instagram login credentials.

Your Instagram following list order sorts other accounts based on mutual connections. It assists Instagram users in finding relevant contacts with whom they frequently interact—those within the same circle.

Do Stalkers Show up First on the Following List? 

Many Instagram users are curious about whether the list of followers displayed on the app actually ranks their “stalkers.” In the context of social media, “stalkers” are individuals who frequently like your photos, view your stories, or visit your profile.

Unfortunately, Instagram provides no notifications or information regarding users’ identities who visit your profile or engage in stalking behavior. This absence of transparency makes it challenging to determine if the followers’ list consists of such interactions.

However, it’s important to note that the Instagram algorithm considers your relationships within the platform. This means that it considers the posts you engage with and the users who engage with your posts.

As a result, Instagram accounts that stalk your profile might rank higher on your list of followers due to their frequent interactions with your content.

Until Instagram—the widely popular photo and video-sharing social networking service—discloses precise details about how the order of the followers list works, we can only speculate and make educated guesses.

It remains a mystery as to whether the list truly reflects the activities of potential “stalkers” or if there are other factors influencing the order.

A person stalking another user's Instagram account and posts.

How Does the Instagram Followers List Algorithm Work?

Instagram hasn’t officially disclosed the specific details of Instagram following list algorithms. However, ample evidence and independent studies by various social media community members, including Instagram influencers, reveal the main factors influencing these lists’ order. Want to know more about what determines who appears at the top? Let’s dive in!

When you check someone’s following, or followers list on Instagram, mutual followers—accounts that follow you and the person you view—will appear near or at the top.

You don’t need to follow them back, so they appear on the list. Instagram designed this helpful feature to help you find people you may know through your connection to the account you look at.

When you look at someone else’s list of followers on Instagram, the platform will show profiles you also follow. This is because mutual Instagram followings help identify shared connections and interests.

For instance, you and another user follow similar food influencers. When you check the Instagram followers list of one of those influencers, you’ll likely find each other at the top.

On Instagram, there are several ways you can interact with others: you can like their posts, leave comments, save their content, or share it with others. 

The more you engage with another user’s account, the higher your position will be on each other’s followers and following lists.

Even if you don’t follow someone, they can still appear at the top of your list, provided they engage with your account frequently. However, users you follow and actively interact with your Instagram content will overtake them in position.

Additionally, interactions indicating personal relationships, like Direct Messages (DMs) and tags, strongly influence Instagram following lists. These interactions signify a more profound connection beyond the Instagram app itself.

Other Reasons That Determine Who Appears At The Top

  • Geo-location: Geo-location is another significant factor in determining the positioning of Instagram users on your following list. Those closer to your city are more likely to be at the top. For instance, accounts from the US tend to appear at the forefront of your following list if you’re US-based. The same principle applies to individuals in your local area.
  • A High Number Of Followers: The order of accounts in your following list on Instagram influences from followers a user has and the number of accounts they follow. Accounts with many followers appear at or near the top of your following list on Instagram. Conversely, accounts with fewer followers are usually positioned toward the bottom of the list.
  • Plenty Of Posts: Your number of posts on your Instagram account helps determine your position on the following lists. When you have plenty of posts, your account is more likely to appear at the top of the list. This is because users with many posts have various content pieces and ideas, encouraging others to spend more time on their profiles.
  • Popular Followers or Following: While popular accounts can quickly secure top positions in Instagram followers lists, verified accounts often relegate to the bottom. However, with frequent interactions, these verified accounts propel your following and followers list upwards.

Now that you know how the Instagram following list order algorithm works, let’s find out how does Instagram order likes and other reactions.

A person checking out his Instagram account

How Does Instagram Order Likes?

Instagram users often wonder about the likes of their posts. Clicking on the total number of likes reveals the list of users who liked the post.

However, it’s important to note that the list is not in the order of when a user liked it. You can verify it by checking your notifications or paying close attention as the notifications come in.

So, how does Instagram order likes

Similar to Instagram followers list sequencing, numerous factors affect Instagram order likes, such as:

Accounts on Your Instagram Followers List

Believe it or not, the accounts you follow influence the order in which likes appear on your Instagram posts. 

If someone you follow likes your post, their likes will appear before those from followers who don’t follow you back. 

When you follow someone, you tell Instagram you find the user’s content interesting. As a result, Instagram will prioritize likes from people you follow by placing them at the top of the likes list. 

This is because Instagram assumes you prefer seeing posts from people you know and follow first.


Your interactions with accounts on Instagram have an impact on the order in which your post’s likes will appear. 

Instagram considers it interaction when you like multiple posts from a particular profile. In addition, if other users have viewed, commented, or liked your Instagram posts, it shows they have engaged with your content.

This shows that your interaction with another person’s account and their interactions with your account determines Instagram order likes.

Measure Number of Followers Using Instagram Following List 

The popularity of a profile also affects Instagram order likes. When users like your posts, Instagram considers their number of followers. Those with higher follower counts occupy the top spots in the likes list.

This ranking system helps you expand your profile by highlighting users with a large following, from 5000 to 9000 followers, to accounts with millions of followers.

Tags on Instagram Followers List 

When someone tags you or vice versa on Instagram, it affects the ranking of your likes. Tagging suggests a close connection, prompting Instagram to display people you may know or be interested in.

Verified Profiles

Instagram prioritizes likes from verified accounts, giving them higher visibility. Having a verified account impacts other aspects, such as Instagram followers lists and comments on the platform.

How to Export Instagram Following List?

Believe it or not, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this, as the perfect way to export Instagram following lists may differ based on your preference.

Nevertheless, here are two ways to export your Instagram followers list:

Export Instagram Followers List Manually

Instagram doesn’t allow users to export their followers/following list with just one click. To manually export an Instagram followers list, follow these five steps to the T:

  1. Log in to Instagram and tap the “Following” button.
  2. A pop-up will appear, displaying the list of every user you follow.
  3. Select all the results in the pop-up and copy them.
  4. Paste the copied list into Excel.
  5. In Excel, apply a filter to display only the usernames and remove any other information.

If you’re unfamiliar with Excel or prefer an automated approach, you can use a tool to streamline this process.

Use Web-Scraping Tools

There are various valuable websites, extensions, and scraping tools that allow users to not only export but also download Instagram followers lists in different formats. 

One such tool is InstagRISE. It offers a simple solution for extracting Instagram followers/following lists. Using this third-party automation tool, you can obtain the desired list with just a click, including multiple users’ followers/following, and conveniently save it as a TXT file on your PC. 

To export your Instagram following list seamlessly on a PC, follow these steps: 

  • Click the “followers” button on the left
  • Enter the “username” and specify the quantity (how many followers you intend to extract)
  • Click “Start” to crawl
  • Click the “Export button,” name the file, and save the scraped following/followers list as a TXT file.

A girl logging into her Instagram account

Can you Hide Your Following List on Instagram?

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, with more than 1.4 B active users. To maintain privacy and security, many users prefer to hide following lists on Instagram.

Privacy is a key concern on social media, especially when users share sensitive or personal content. Only approved individuals can see who you follow by concealing your Instagram followers list. This prevents unnecessary attention from stalkers, strangers, or spammers. 

Moreover, hiding followers helps maintain a formal image, particularly for business users. Keeping your Instagram followers list private helps safeguard your reputation and prevents unwanted associations with specific followers.

But how can you hide your following list on Instagram?

Listed below are five easy yet effective ways:

1. How To Hide Instagram Following List Using Private Accounts

Looking for an effortless way to hide Instagram followers? Switch to a private account. By doing so, only individuals you authorize as followers will have access to your stories, followers list, and posts.

Here’s how to hide Instagram following list using private accounts:

  1. Open your profile and tap the “three horizontal lines” in the top-right corner.
  2. Choose settings.
  3. Tap Privacy.
  4. Toggle the privacy account slider to your right.
  5. Confirm by tapping “switch to private.”

2. Block Followers Using Instagram Followers List 

If you’re promoting an account, making it private to conceal the followers list won’t help. The only option left is to block users. Blocked accounts will lose visibility of your profile, stories, and posts. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the user’s profile you intend to block and tap the “three dots” in the top-right corner.
  2. Select block.
  3. Instagram will provide two options: block all accounts created by the user or just this page. Choose any of the two.
  4. Tap block.

3. Remove Followers from Your Instagram Followers List

Another easy way to hide your Instagram followers lists is by removing followers. This way, the users you remove will lose the ability to view your stories and posts. However,  they will be able to access your profile.

Follow these four steps to hide your followers’ list:

  1. Open the app and tap the followers list.
  2. Go to the user you want to remove and tap the “three dots” in the top-right corner.
  3. Choose the “remove button.”
  4. Tap ‘remove’ to confirm the action.

4. Edit Instagram Followers List

To maintain privacy for your followers list, you can “edit” who can view your Instagram. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open your profile and tap the “three lines” in the top-right corner.
  2. Choose settings.
  3. Tap “Privacy” and then “Followers.”
  4. From there, select who can view your Instagram followers list by choosing from “only you,” “people you follow,” or “everyone.”

5. Employ Third-Party Tools & Apps For Instagram Followers List

Many users opt for third-party tools and apps to better handle their privacy on Instagram. These apps provide a range of helpful features, including hiding your Instagram following list, monitoring follower activity, and managing content visibility. 

Some apps go the extra mile by letting you create separate follower lists for various content pieces and types. This level of customization grants you more precise control over your privacy settings.

However, be cautious when choosing third-party Instagram apps and tools, as some may violate the platform’s T&S (term of service) and place your Instagram account at serious risk. 

A user posting quality content to engage more followers

How to Obtain Targeted Instagram Followers

There are various tried and tested tricks and tips to get more Instagram followers fast. Here are a few ways you can use to get targeted Instagram followers without even paying for more followers:

  • Create Regular, Valuable Content: Consistently posting on Instagram is a fantastic method to boost your account’s visibility and maintain an engaged audience. Add multiple photos to your Instagram story to grab people’s attention, and use memes and short videos. When more users follow you, they’re more likely to stay updated and repost your posts. 
  • Contests And Promotions: Instagram giveaways and contests help attract customers and establish brand trust. This approach is particularly beneficial for smaller companies seeking a quick and effortless method to gain attention and foster goodwill.
  • Engage With Followers: Building an Instagram audience goes beyond posting engaging photos and writing clever captions. Genuine responses to comments, active engagement with other Instagram accounts, and delivering high-quality content are essential to foster trust, nurturing relationships, and delighting your followers.

Instagram Followers List Summarized

Instagram’s algorithm for determining followers and following lists is constantly changing. For example, the 2023 algorithm is different from what it was the year before. 

Although it might seem complex and pointless, Instagram aims to maximize user engagement. In other words, they want you to spend as much time as possible on the app. This benefits their advertisers and overall statistics. 

That said, the order of followers and following lists is based on Instagram’s prediction of who you’ll likely browse or interact with often. Ultimately, their goal is to keep you engaged with the app for an extended period.

Looking to elevate your Instagram presence? Choose Path Social! They offer a range of carefully crafted tools and personalized strategies that will help you unleash the true power of your account. 

Experience unprecedented growth and expand your following like never before with their expert guidance. Don’t wait further to increase your Instagram presence—let Path Social help you get there! Start growing and gaining Instagram followers today!