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Understanding Instagram algorithms: Are story views ranked based on your likes?

Trying to understand the data behind your Instagram Story views sequence? Learn how Instagram ranks story viewers and how you can boost Instagram engagement for your business.

March 17 · 7 min read

By now, most of us are Instagram users either for business or personal reasons, or both. It’s an amazing platform for visual inspiration and to keep up with everyone from friends to Instagram influencers and celebrities you’ve never met. It has also become a major shopping platform for products and services.

Instagram Stories, in particular, are increasing in popularity. For business owners trying to develop an Instagram presence and engagement, you will benefit from learning more about the Instagram algorithm, what it tells you about potential clients, and how to leverage Instagram into business growth.

You might’ve noticed that you can see a list of people who watch your Instagram Stories, but how much do you know about the data behind the order of viewers that Instagram shows you? Is it meaningful or random?

Let’s dive into Instagram Stories, how to interpret the order of Instagram Stories views, how to maximize your profile views, and how to turn it into conversion for your business.

What are Instagram Stories?

Instagram took a page out of Snapchat’s book by unveiling Instagram Stories in 2016. Since then they’ve only increased in popularity. Now, some Insta users don’t even bother to scroll down their feed, they just stick to story viewing!

Instagram Stories allow users to post 15-second videos that only last for 24 hours. To extend their life, you can save your Instagram Stories to your profile by adding them to your Instagram profile page’s “Highlights,” where they will be available indefinitely.

You can use filters, add text, and add fun gifs and images. Stories allow you to play around with filters, text, GIFs, images, videos, polls, stickers, Q&As, and music. For businesses, Stories present an opportunity to share promotions, discount codes, and behind-the-scenes content. They’re great for content that’s time-sensitive or a little more casual.

Businesses can also advertise using Instagram Stories. Users will see a sponsored story every few Stories that they tap through, so you’ll reach many users with this sort of ad placement.

Can I see who viewed my Instagram story?

Want to know how to track Instagram viewers? It’s simple. Tap your profile picture at the top of your feed to view your story. Look at the lower-left corner of your story. If anyone has viewed it, you’ll see one or multiple profile pictures with a “Seen by” label and number beneath it.

Tap the “Seen by #” label to open your Instagram story viewers list. Here, you’ll see a list of everyone who has viewed your story as well as the total view count.

How does Instagram rank story viewers?

Many users suspect that Instagram displays story viewers in a particular order. According to Julian Gutman, product lead for Instagram Home, the profiles at the top of your list are based on who you engage with the most, not vice versa.

Just because someone is at the top of your viewer list doesn’t mean that they visit your Instagram feed the most or watched your story multiple times. The Instagram algorithm simply displays your viewer list based on your activity and who it thinks you’re closest to.

Your interaction data can come from posts you like or comment on, profiles you look for in the search bar, and when you swipe up on an account’s Instagram Story. This data reveals quite a bit about our social media habits. Your taps and swipes are telling the app who you care about most!

There’s your answer! The profiles at the top of the list have nothing to do with privacy settings, number of views, number of Instagram posts, or your business account’s unfollow ratio — and won’t tip you off if you have an Instagram stalker. It’s simply a reflection of how you spend your time in the app.

While the order of story views isn’t the most compelling engagement data for business owners, it’s interesting to be aware of your own habits and understand how the platform works.

So, the Instagram algorithm isn’t telling me who likes my Instagram business account the most?

The Instagram feed algorithm is different from the Instagram Story algorithm. When we refer to the “Instagram algorithm,” we’re talking about the order in which Instagram presents new content posted by accounts you follow as well as the profiles that appear on your Discover page.

You might’ve noticed that Instagram doesn’t display feed posts in chronological order. The Instagram algorithm intends to surface the best, most relevant content to each user every time they check their feed.

What you see is an algorithmic timeline, which means the content Instagram thinks you’ll likely be most interested in. The order of photos and videos in your feed is based on the likelihood you’ll engage with the content, your relationship with the account posting it, and how recently the content was posted.

Instagram is all about engagement, so its algorithm is precisely designed to increase the chances of users liking, swiping, or making a purchase in the app. Of course, timeliness still plays a part in what you see, as Instagram considers recent posts more relevant.

If you’re worried that the algorithmic timeline means you won’t see posts from friends and loved ones, Instagram has addressed in concern, stating, “no matter how many accounts you follow, you should see your best friend’s latest posts.”

How can I improve my Instagram Story engagement?

An Instagram account is worth pursuing for your business simply because there are more than a billion active monthly users on the platform!

The foundation of a successful Instagram presence is to post frequently. Over time, you will learn how fast and often your audience views, likes, comments, shares, and saves your new posts and Stories. Until then, all you can control is sharing high-quality content regularly. The Instagram algorithm will reward you for your output.

To increase the engagement your posts and Stories receive, which will rank you higher in the app’s algorithm, you should always post crisp, attention-grabbing photos and videos that offer value to your audience.

If your content isn’t as strong as you’d like, you can try doing giveaways or promotions that encourage visitors to engage with you. This may mean responding to a poll, submitting a question, or asking them to slide into your DMs (direct messages) with responses. Soliciting questions from followers allows you to respond to them directly. This establishes authority, lets you give them free advice, and builds rapport.

Your content will improve as you devote more time and resources to it. The better you get at creating interesting content for your audience, the higher your engagement will be and the more relevant your posts will be according to the Instagram algorithm.

If you’re using Instagram for your professional venture and want to know how to get more likes and followers, this guide helps you to do just that.

Download my free guide

Tracking your Instagram insights

Like any project, it’s a good idea to track your Instagram insights over time. Keep a spreadsheet where you track each week’s performance metrics, including likes, comments, shares, and saves that your content (both new and old posts) receives.

This will help you objectively measure which posts perform better, and over time, identify trends when it comes to the type of content that delivers the most value. No ads needed! Just organic growth for your business.

You should also seek out other accounts in your niche and engage with them. You can team up for cross-promotions, content collaborations, partner giveaways, or simply repost their content that your follower might enjoy.

What affects Instagram engagement?

Factors that may impact an Insta story or post’s metrics include:

  • Number of Instagram followers
  • Number of people who see your post
  • Hashtags
  • Frequency of your feed posts
  • Type of content
  • Timeliness of content
  • Number of fake accounts following you

For more tips on how to get the most out of your Instagram efforts, check out our guide for succeeding on Instagram.

Download my free guide

How can I turn Instagram engagement into more clients for my business?

Now that you understand how the Instagram algorithm works for Stories and how to use it to your advantage, you can start building a better Insta presence for your business. However, an effective Instagram business profile is only one piece of your digital marketing strategy. The most important part is a professional website, which is where you’ll want to direct all of your online traffic, including from social media platforms.

B12 builds professional websites that have the tools and functionality your business needs to sell your services online and engage new and existing clients. Beyond websites, we offer SEO, blog posts, online scheduling, online payments, and much more. Elevate your online presence and professionalize your business by getting started with B12 today.

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