Our top 4 secrets to organic reach on Instagram in 2021

Is organic reach really dead? Is anyone actually seeing your posts or are you just posting to crickets?

So many digital marketers bang on about the algorithm for Instagram in 2021—”you need an advertising campaign”, “no one sees your posts unless you boost them”—and for the most part they aren’t 100% wrong. When most digital marketers insist small businesses have marketing spend, a lot of small business clients don’t have the budget for advertising, particularly given the current state of the economy. Being time-poor and cash-poor, they’d rather spend their marketing dollars on content management than advertising. This has meant our team at Boost Social has had to experiment and discover ways to tap into organic reach. Obviously, the reach isn’t going to be as great as it is when you spend money reaching wider audiences and the engagement rates may be lower, but your Instagram content can still be seen. Today, we’re sharing our 4 top secrets to organic reach on Instagram in 2021.

1. Instagram Reels

Yes, they’re more time-consuming than posting a pretty picture, but Reels is where it is at. As we discussed in our last blog, Instagram is moving away from simply being a square photo platform towards an entertainment hub. And short-form videos are getting amazing organic reach.

Faces vs Scenery

When it comes to Reels, it’s all about showcasing your personality and having fun! In our experience, the Reels that showcase people in the cover photo perform better than beautiful photos of scenery or products. Videos always perform better than a series of photos combined into a slideshow and don’t forget your music choice is also important. Using trending music can help expand your reach. Your reel will perform better if you choose music that is directly from the Instagram app rather than added to videos in third-party editing software.

Using hashtags for Reels

When posting reels, we’ve found adding a caption and hashtags play a crucial part in reach. Those without captions didn’t perform as well, and those with hashtags performed better when generalised hashtags were used rather than niche ones.

Timing is everything

The views within the first two hours seem to dictate the success of the reel. The team has been experimenting with a variety of Reels and has discovered the timing of when you post them is vital. Do your research and find out when your audience is most likely to be online. The more views your reel gets within the first two hours will signal to Instagram that people are enjoying the content and therefore likely to be seen by more people. Views are great, but comments and likes on Reels are even better!

Share Reels to stories

It’s important to make sure your Reels are set to show in your Instagram Feed and also share to the Feed Post to your Instagram Stories. Turn off the sound and use a sticker to announce you have a new reel. Reels our team created that weren’t featured in Instagram stories had fewer views.

2. Make Carousel Posts

Carousel posts are a series of photos that people can scroll through. They are great for showcasing real estate listings, before and after photos for skincare, hair, and beauty, even project process for builders. Instagram allows you to add up to 10 photos. Remember not to use the same photo more than once (Instagram is all-knowing and all-seeing) and while it’s tempting to keep your best photo for a big reveal at the end of the carousel, we recommend using the best photo first.

The advantage of using a carousel post is not simply because your followers will spend more time on your feed because they have to scroll to see the rest of the photos, but because if a follower sees your carousel and doesn’t stop scrolling or engage with your post, Instagram will automatically serve it up in their feed again, using another photo in the carousel, effectively increasing your chances of stopping the scroll.

3. Hashtags Hashtags Hashtags!

This step is crucial if you are solely relying on organic reach for your Instagram content. Do you know how many people try to tell us hashtags don’t work anymore? Hashtags are important. Instagram doesn’t have any other way that they categorise your content, so if your photos don’t have hashtags, how are people going to find them when searching tags. If hashtags aren’t working, perhaps you’re just doing it wrong.

How many hashtags should I use?

You’ll hear lots of different marketers tell you only to use 6-7 hashtags, you might hear only use 11 hashtags because it looks spammy otherwise, but it’s not about looks! It’s about being found! If you’re only using 6-7 hashtags, you’re missing out 23-24 opportunities for someone to find your business.

Removing hashtags—just stop it!!

Do not go back through your posts and remove hashtags to ‘tidy up your feed’. This can be seen as bulk activity by Instagram and could see your account end up frozen, not to mention there’s no purpose for it. Once again, how can new followers find your content if you remove the hashtags? Additionally, the time you spend going back through old posts could be better spent creating new content.

Hashtag Research

Take the time to do your research. Look at Instagram accounts similar to yours that are performing well. What hashtags are they using? Are there any that could apply to your business? Look at the hashtags your competitors are using. Make sure you’re using a variety of different hashtags and by different, we mean niche hashtags—just for your brand, a couple of trending hashtags (providing they are relevant to your business), branded hashtags, average-trending hashtags.

4. Use thumb-stopping captions

When you’re solely relying on organic reach your captions are more important than ever!

You’ve got three seconds to get someone to stop scrolling with your caption. That’s not a lot of time, so what you write (and you only have a sentence or two before it says Read More), matters. Think about what would stop you from scrolling and encourage you to read the text. Think about the caption if you were writing a headline for a newspaper article—21 words to summarise the entire post. You can make things more eye-catching by using emojis (make sure you familiarise yourself with what they actually mean!) and emphasising some words with caps! Don’t use all caps because that comes across as if you’re yelling!


You may think it sounds like a lot of work to tap into organic reach on Instagram and it is! If you’re time-poor, don’t keep posting for the sake of posting! If you don’t have the time to properly carry out an Instagram strategy for organic reach, the team at Boost Social can help. We have packages designed for all types of business—no matter how big or small. All we need is 30-minutes of our time. To find out why our customers love us, read our Google Reviews.