More than 400 million people and brands use Instagram Stories every day to share tidbits from their personal lives with their followers. Launched in 2016, this feature was an instant hit with users and has helped Instagram overtake its younger, hipper competition embodied by the likes of Snapchat and Vine.
Although Instagram values its users’ privacy, the platform gives content creators access to certain stats and insights. Among them is the ability to see the list of people who have viewed each of their stories. To access the list, users only have to swipe up on their screen while a story they posted is playing.
The names of story viewers aren’t ordered alphabetically or in any other sequence that makes sense, which prompted Instagram users to wonder about the criteria that determine the viewer ranking order.
Understanding Instagram’s Algorithm
According to Instagram’s engineers, the order in which the viewers of your story are displayed is determined by their secretive algorithm. Applied to your Instagram feed, the algorithm chooses the posts that it thinks you’ll like the most and pushes them toward the top. Similarly, if you’re using Stories as a viewer, the algorithm will customize the order in which stories from the accounts you follow appear.
Much like an old family recipe passed from generation to generation, Instagram is keeping the inner workings of its algorithm a secret. Their engineers have only revealed that the algorithm is influenced by the timeliness of the content, as well as the user’s interests, relationships, and activity on Instagram. All this info is constantly fed to the algorithm via a specially developed machine learning technology.
Instagram’s engineers also revealed that the algorithm picks up on likes, comments, and profile visits, as well. This might provide some insight into how the ranking of story viewers works. Apparently, if you interact a lot with other users’ posts and visit their profiles quite often, those users will appear on the top of the viewer list when they check out a story you post. That is at least what the official word from Instagram seems to suggest. However, that’s not what some users have been noticing.
While some users are seeing their actual friends on the top of their viewer lists, some are also seeing complete strangers that they have never met nor interacted with. What’s more, many users have noticed their exes, people they no longer talk to, or acquaintances they never chatted with online top their story viewer lists. Unsurprisingly, this prompted a new theory about Instagram’s viewer rankings.
Is Instagram Exposing Your Cyberstalker?
Last year, a few Reddit and Quora posters suggested that Instagram’s story viewer ranking order is actually determined by how others interact with your profile and not how you interact with theirs. As such, the people who visit your profile the most would appear first on the list rather than those whose profiles you visit the most or those that you interact the most with on the platform.
One of those posters conducted an experiment to see if this was true. For two weeks, he visited his friend’s Instagram profile several times a day. During that period, he asked his friend not to visit his profile at all. Neither of them liked or commented on the other one’s content so as not to impact the algorithm. After two weeks, the poster viewed his friend’s story – and his suspicions were confirmed.
All of a sudden, the poster appeared at the top of his friend’s story viewers list, even though this friend hadn’t visited his profile or interacted with him in any way for two weeks prior to that. On the other hand, the friend’s name was shown about halfway down his viewer list, which is where it was before their two-week experiment. It was thus obvious that visiting someone’s profile multiple times a day for 14 days did nothing to rank them higher on the list of people who viewed your stories.
The conclusion is simple – the people who top the viewers list are those who view your profile the most. In many users’ stats, these people often outranked those they communicate with the most by a few places, which prompted them to classify these users as cyberstalkers. That would certainly explain why they were seeing their exes in the first place instead of the users whose posts they like and comment on.
The Truth About the Instagram Stories Viewer Ranking
Many media outlets picked up on these rumors and tried to get an official response, but Instagram’s representatives neither denied nor confirmed them. Although the stalker theory doesn’t sound too far-fetched, it is difficult to believe that Instagram would allow its users to see who is viewing their profile, even in a roundabout way like this. This is a highly sought-after feature that still remains unavailable.
Some third-party apps claim to be able to show you who is viewing your profile, but they are usually mere spambots that use your profile to send spam to other users. As a rule, regular users have no access to this data. On the other hand, business users can see how many times their profile has been viewed and access all kinds of demographic stats, but even they can’t see exactly who has viewed their profile.
As far as Instagram Stories ranking order goes, there is only one thing that is certain – it is all determined by Instagram’s algorithm. Exactly how that algorithm works is anyone’s guess. If the list order is changing every time you open your story, that’s also the algorithm at work. According to Instagram’s engineers, rather than showing you the same viewers all the time, the app will mix things up a bit to ensure. So if you check your views quite often, you might see new people on the top of the list every time you do it.
The Final Word
Although there are a few theories on how Instagram ranks the viewers of your stories, the actual truth remains a company secret. Instagram’s engineers have revealed that there are two factors at play – how often you check your story views and how you interact with the platform and its users. How Instagram’s algorithm interprets this information and uses it to customize your feed and Stories is still a mystery.
If you don’t want to see exes, former friends, or complete strangers on the top of your story viewers lists, you can always block them. Alternatively, it might be best to just not interact with them and not visit their profiles. The algorithm might pick up on that and stop ranking them so high on the list.