Let’s face it, Instagram Stories are great for “stalking.”
Since its release, Instagram Stories have taken off big time.
In fact, in early 2017, they overtook Snapchat in audience size, and now they have over 300 million daily active users. That’s almost the population of the entire United States. WOW.
But while they let people interact with their followers at the moment and share snippets of daily life with the click of a button, there’s still one thing that’s puzzling Insta users when it comes to the platform’s newest feature.
And that’s the method behind the madness when it comes to the order of who’s viewed your Instagram Stories.
In other words, how does Instagram determine the order of this list:
The algorithm is pretty simple for the general Insta feed.
Back in June 2016, the platform placed a heavy emphasis on showing people more of what they wanted to see. In the past, it had been chronological, but now users were seeing more posts by the people they interacted with the most. And, when it comes to the order of how Instagram Stories are presented at the top of the app, it’s all based on engagement data taken from Insta and Facebook.
The real mystery lies in the order of Story views.
The Instagram Story Views Mystery
Wanna hear the truth?
No one really knows how Instagram chooses to show Story views in the way it does, but there are plenty of half-baked theories that are doing the rounds (some that have some substance to them and others that are just way out left field).
Here’s what we know:
The list of viewers isn’t chronological, though it might start off chronological. That is until a Story gets a certain amount of views, the viewers’ list remains in chronological order depending on who watched it first.
But then the list also doesn’t seem to be rooted in activity data, like public interactions, likes, tags, and comments – at least, it’s not rooted in just this.
Now, there is a theory that people are throwing around, but it’s unclear as to whether this is based on research and facts or simply wishful thinking.
According to this theory, the people who view our profiles the most – even if they don’t engage with our content – rank the highest in our Instagram Story views list.
Basically, profile lurkers and our stalkers appear at the top of the list.
To test this theory, a number of Reddit users created fake accounts and checked out their main profile multiple times from their alt account without commenting, liking, or interacting with anything.
Their fake, “stalker” accounts started showing up top in their Instagram Story views list. Weird? Or simply Insta tapping into our stalkerish tendencies?
“So, I tried a little experiment with a friend of mine,” said one Reddit user. “In fact, for a few days I visited his profile a lot each day and I told him not to visit my profile at all. After I did this for almost one week, my friend uploaded a story and guess who was on top of his list? Me!”.
“I created another account using a different email address and stalked my own (original) profile every day,” said another Reddit user. “I watched all of my stories multiple times, went right back to the beginning of my profile, but I didn’t see anything so it would appear like an anonymous stalker. After 3 days of solidly checking my original profile, my new account became 1st in the ‘view’ list and dropped to second when my current top viewer had seen the story.”
There are plenty more experiments where this came from, but are people just seeing what they want to see here?
Would Instagram really be this creepy?
How is the Order of Story Views REALLY Measured?
Okay, so we know that the order of actual Stories at the top of our feeds work in a similar algorithmic way to our actual feeds. This has even been confirmed by Paige Thelan, who works in tech communications at Instagram:
“Similar to the feed, Stories are ordered based on which moments you’ll care about most. The order is determined based on a number of signals, including 1) the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content; 2) timeliness of the posts, and 3) your relationships to the person posting. The technology is powered by machine learning, which is adaptive to your behavior and improves over time.”
She adds that “profile visits are considered, as well as likes and comments.”
This is just for the order that Stories show up in our feeds. It doesn’t account for how the viewers of those Stories are ranked.
The Truth About How Instagram Determines the Order of Who Viewed Your Story
The main source of research for this seems to come from Reddit, where hundreds of users have experimented with their Stories to see which viewers would come up in what order.
Based on their experiments, they seem to have come up with two conclusions:
- The list of Story viewers is shown in reverse chronological order until there have been more than 50 viewers.
- After 50 views, Instagram then pushes those who have interacted the most with the Instagram account at the top. But here’s the catch: profile views are given the heaviest weight in this equation according to the research.
We’re still pretty much in the dark, right?
So we decided to run a test to see if we could determine what factors came into play. Here are the results of the experiment, with each screenshot taken at least 50 views between one another.
Story Experiment #1
Story Experiment #2
Despite the viewer numbers being at least 50 apart (aligning with the theory that the first 50 views are listed in chronological order), the top of the lists seems to stay the same for both Stories.
So this could mean that neither theory is founded in any reality; we don’t know why the first few people are listed at the top, but we do know that it doesn’t seem to be chronological – or, at least, it doesn’t seem to stay in a chronological order.
Though the chronological theory and the profile views theory seem to be the two most circulated and talked about, we all know that Instagram rarely relies on one single factor to determine this sort of stuff.
So while we can guess all we like and really hope that the people at the top of the list are our biggest fans (*cough* stalkers *cough*), only the team at Instagram really know what’s going on.
For the rest of us, the mystery still remains, though we can assume that there is some sort of algorithm at play.
Does the Order Even Matter?
Perhaps the bigger question in all of this is why people are so obsessed with knowing why their Story viewers come up in the order they do. Does it really matter whether it shows your Aunt Doreen as number one or your high-school ex?
It’s understandable that businesses and personalities that rely on Instagram engagement are keen to know what determines the order of their Story views list because then they can work on building relationships with those people.
But for the regular Instagram user, does it even matter?
Especially when we might never know for sure what little tricks Instagram has up its sleeve for this. Maybe the viewers are listed in chronological order up until the first 50 views, and then maybe then it switches to the most engaged viewers, even if “engaged” simply means those who have lurked on your profile the most.
The only thing we can say for certain is that people are hungry for this knowledge. Like, really, really ravenous, and it’s easy to see when.
Lots of people look at the list of who viewed their story as a popularity thing, and getting to the bottom of the algorithm could answer a lot of questions that regular people using Instagram have, like one of the age-old, million-dollar questions, “is my ex still into me?!”.
Have you noticed Instagram listing your Story views in any particular order? Let us know in the comment section below.