Instagram Story Views: The Algorithm Behind the Order of Who Views Your Story

It’s time to come clean.

Yes, we know you do it – we do it too – Instagram Story stalking that is.

Since its launch in late 2016, the Insta-story feature actually overtook Snapchat in audience size and has grown to have over 300 million daily active users. That’s nearly the population of the entire United States, can you believe it?


Insta-story feature



As you can see, Insta-Stories has taken off and has earned its rightful place as your-go-to tool for engagement into someone else’s and the account user. People begin to use the Insta-Story viewer “whose seen your story” feature as method of measurement.

Ok, just picture this – you decide to post a story showing the gorgeous view you happened across on your walk. A few moments later, you check the story “views” list and noticed your crush is seen at the top. You decide to post another story to see if they appear at the top, but this time, they’ve dropped down a few. Frustrated, you post another story, and what do you know – they’re at the top again.

Yes, this shows that you’re hooked on Insta-Stories but also, you’re starting to be strategically intentional about how you post things. You’re starting to notice the order of people appearing and wondering if it actually means something.

We know we shouldn’t care or be obsessed with these trivial sorts of things – but we actually do. We’re human beings. It’s in our nature to feel noticed and appreciated (and when your crush notices, that doesn’t hurt either).

We put content on social and give a glimpse into our lives for the intention to have some sort of impact, so it shouldn’t be surprising  that some users really want to know whether the content they posted actually had an impact and whether there’s a method behind the story-views madness.

So, let’s get to the big question on everyone’s minds – how does Instagram rank the order of the viewers of your story? Is there an actual algorithm behind the Insta-Story stalking we shamelessly love to do?


Algorithm behind the Insta-Story stalking


The answer is yes, but not exactly in the way you may think. Here’s how it’s done:

It’s actually quite simple after reading Our Stupid Simple Guide to the Instagram Algorithm. Initially, the social platform placed a huge emphasis on showing the people the users wanted to see. It started out in a chronological sequence from when you posted the story to your feed to how it appears on other users feeds throughout the day.

Apparently, now it’s based on who the user engages with the most.

The people you see appearing at the top of the viewers list are based on your engagement data taken from Instagram and Facebook.

“The Instagram algorithm recognizes who  you are regularly interacting with and will then place them at the top of your Instagram Stories viewers list, because it knows those are the accounts you care about (or stalk), the most,” said Julian Gutman, product lead for Instagram home.

A little disappointing for some of our hardcore Insta-Stalkers, we know, but fear not – there’s always hope that they’re stories show you in the top rankings of their views. One may never actually know.


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 appear 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 when businesses and influencers rely on Instagram engagement analytics and metrics to understand how they can better build relationships with those people engaging with them, but what about for the average Instagram user? Does it really 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, such as 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.


Instagram listing your Story views in any particular order


The real mystery lies in the order of Story views.


The Instagram Story Views Mystery

Ok, we’re just going to spill the tea, because we want to make sure your stalking efforts aren’t wasted.

No one actually  knows how Instagram chooses to show Story views in the way it does because it changes so frequently, 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 on left field), until Instagram decides to spill the tea.

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 number of views, then the viewers’ list remains in chronological order depending on who watched it first.

But what does it mean when accounts you’ve never seen before appear at the top of the list or top of your feed?

This is probably because of Instagram’s “timeliness” factor — it aims to prioritize recent posts, so you’re less likely to see old posts, even if they’re from your favorite profile. It’s working to show you what’s new and fresh since you last used the app.

But  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.


rank the highest in our Instagram Story views list


Now, there is a theory that people are throwing around, however, it’s still unclear as to whether this would based on research and facts or simply wishful thinking.

Per 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.

The Reddit results?

Their fake, “stalker” accounts started showing up top in their Instagram Story views list. Weird? Or  could it be  Instagram finally 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!”



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“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?

Recommended Reading: 33 Jaw-Dropping Instagram Statistics



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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.

There are a lot of confounding factors such as whether you go and visit their profile, like their feed post, comment on their feed post, view their stories on a consistent-habitual basis?  Do you  go and check your story list multiple times? If you do, the algorithm]tries to show you a new set of people, it’s trying to give you new information every time you check the list.

“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.”


profile visits are considered, as well as likes and comments


She adds that “profile visits are considered, as well as likes and comments.”

Keep in mind:  this is just for the order Stories show up in our feed. It does not account for how those Stories are ranked. Just to clarify, if you watch an Instagram influencers’ stories every day, you’ll see them near the beginning of your Stories feed every day. This is also the same reason why your close friends (and people you stalk) appear near the top of your regular Instagram feed when you open the app, too.

If you’re interested in learning how to get more story views, we recommend taking a look at Story Highlights: How to Get More IG Story Views + 12 Tips & Ideas to Make Better Stories (Now That They Last Longer).


The Truth About How Instagram Determines the Order of Who Viewed Your Story

Sure, there’s research out there from a variety of sources guesstimating how the order is order of viewers are determined.

Our main source of research for question comes 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, the user-testing have came up with the following: seem to have come up with two conclusions:

  1. The list of Story viewers is shown in reverse chronological order until there have been more than 50 viewers.
  2. After 50 views, Instagram then pushes those who have interacted the most with the Instagram account at the top,there is however, a catch : profile views are given the heaviest weight in this equation according to the research.

Still not super clear as to how the order is determined right?

We thought so too, and as with a forward-thinking curious media organization, 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 #1



Story Experiment #2

Story Experiment #2


Despite the viewer numbers being at least 50 views apart (aligning with the theory that the first 50 views are listed in chronological order), the top of the lists seems to remain consistent for both Stories.

This could potentially mean that neither of the theories were founded in any reality; we don’t know why the first few people are listed at the top, but we do know that it does not  seem to be in chronological order – 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 on digital thread, we all know that Instagram rarely relies on one single factor to determine this sort of stuff.

We can guess, presume and really hope with wishful think that the people listed at the top of the Stories viewers list are our biggest fans (*cough* stalkers *cough*), only the team at Instagram really know what’s going on and they of course, want to keep their secret sauce a secret for as long as they can.

For the rest of us, the mystery behind the algorithm will continue to play in the back of our minds, but until the sauce (or tea) spills, we all can happily presume our admirers are our admirers.

Recommended Reading: How to Become Instagram Famous



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