Marketing By Nate McCallister / 4 weeks ago Hashtags have always left me #confused. They've been used forever and most people understand what they do, but they don't know how to use them effectively on Instagram for their brands. In this article, I'll explain how to use hashtags effectively to...Get more eyes on your posts (which means more followers and eventually, more customers)Get relevant eyes on your posts (which means better conversion rates)Stay within Instagram's terms of service (which means...well, you know)Let's dive in.Why Bother With Hashtags?I admit, I was totally ready to write off hashtags when I decided to go all in on Instagram.I could justify it to myself by saying things like "they're spammy!" or "no one cares, it's all about the content!"The truth however is that hashtags are a vital part of getting eyes on your posts and it is well worth taking the time to research the best hashtags for your brand and place them in all of your posts. When you don't use hashtags, you are ONLY getting exposure from your existing followers. Why? Hashtags throw your posts into a "gallery" of other posts that are using the same hashtag and they appear in chronological order. If your goal is to add new followers and drive engagement, you need to be using hashtags. Posts that use at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement than those without. The purpose of hashtags is to help Instagram's 800 million monthly users find the most relevant content."Posts that use at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement than those without."Instagram loves hashtags (when they aren't abused) and we need to leverage them properly. If we don't, we aren't giving our content the glorious exposure that it deserves. How Many Hashtags Should You Use on Your Instagram Posts?At the time of this writing, Instagram has a 30 hashtag limit. Of course, that doesn't mean that you should use all 30 hashtags necessarily. So, how many hashtags should YOU use on your Instagram posts?It depends on a few factors. Studies have shown that the optimal number of hashtags per post is somwhere around 11So, how many should you use?You won't love this answer, but you need to test and find out. Large businesses don't use a ton of hashtags. Keep in mind, one reason why they don't need to use a lot of hashtags is because they already have large followings and their organic reach is large. Also, they invest a great deal of money into sponsored posts and joining the hashtag pool isn't as important for them as it is for the rest of us. I recommend that you start with 7-10 core hashtags and experiment with more, all the way up to the maximum 30.Just be sure to use relevant hashtags. Remember, the goal of hashtags for Instagram is to show users the most relevant content possible. Using hashtags that don't relate to your post isn't smart and could lead to issues down the road. For example, I wouldn't use #booty on a post related to internet business (unless of course my business had something to do with booties...which currently, it absolutely does not). What Makes a Great Hashtag?The quality of a hashtag isn't limited just to the grows volume. When you use only massively popular hashtags, you are throwing yourself in with a lot of competitors. So, your hashtag selection shouldn't just be about volume, it should be about volume AND exposure. So, choose some hashtags between high volume ones and several relevant tags that will give you more chance of exposure.Another thing to consider is if the hashtag is still active. Some hashtags (for example #livefolk) were impacted due to abuse and spamming. These hashtags now only show top posts instead of all posts that use them. How to Find and Choose Your Instagram HashtagsOk, at this point I hope that you've bought into the power of hashtags.Now, how do you pick the right ones for your profile?There are a number of ways to do this. 1. Use the native Instagram hashtag toolInstagram provides a ton of great data within the Instagram app itself. Simply type in a hashtag and Instagram will generate more similar hashtags for you to consider. Obviously, they want us to be using these things!2. Research which hashtags your competitors are usingFirst, it's important that you know your competitors. This should be relatively easy. Simply research people who have similar brands, styles to you AND have large followings of engaged followers. One of the people I consider a "competitor" (friendly of course) is @chrisgwheeler. He posts a lot of really great motivational/business related content and he uses a lot of hashtags. This is a great starting point for me. Who are your competitors? Find them and see what hashtags they're using and emulate them. 3. Use tools to find relevant hashtags. There are a lot of great free tools that will help you come up with hashtag ideas. I'll share my most recommended tools later in this article. A Word on Branded HashtagsAccording to a Simply Measured study, 7 out of 10 Instagram hashtags are branded.When should you create branded hashtags?Create a branded hashtag for:Product launchesPromotionsContestsSponsored EventsBe sure to promote your hashtag so users know to use it. You’ll want to promote your branded hashtag on:Slides during an event presentationProduct labelsOther social media channelsEmail broadcastsInstagram biosFlyers, stickers or other promotional materialsIf your brand is small, these will be less effective but you have to start somewhere!Two Free Tools for Finding Hashtags for InstagramInstagram is hot and many savy entrepreneurs have put together amazing free tools for the growing community. Here are some that I recommend you check out. 1. All-hashtag.comThis is one of my favorites. You type in a keyword and it will generate the 30 best quotes related to that hashtag. You can also generate 30 random quotes. You can easily copy the hashtags once they're generated, but I recommend you check them one by one at first to make sure that they are all relevant.2. DisplayPurposes.comAnother simple tool that populates up to 30 relevant quotes based off an initial hashtag of your choosing. Storing Your Common HashtagsI'm going to end this post with a shameless plug for a software that I created called Fastlinqs. Fastlinqs is a browser extension that lets you store any sort of text in your Google chrome browser. Now go and #takesomeaction! Oh, be sure to follow me on Instagram @entreresource.