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Hashtags are a way for people to discover certain topics that are posted on social media platforms. As an entrepreneur, you can use hashtags so people who are new to your audience discover your product or service.

Instagram is well known for its use of hashtags, and although they seem random and off the cuff, the ones that work aren’t. They’re researched and analyzed.

Working with a new client on their online strategy, one of the things we start with is Instagram hashtag research.

A hashtag is simply a keyword phrase, spelled out without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of it. For example, #InboundHour and #ChocolateLovers are both hashtags.

These tie public conversations from different users into a single stream, which you can find by searching for a hashtag, clicking on one and monitoring it.

Now that you can see how important hashtags are to your online audience, if you’re using Instagram as a platform to engage an audience and grow your business, how are you finding your hashtags?

I’m going to share with you my process for finding hashtags and researching them.

I use IQ Hashtags for my research. It costs around $130 a year but the time it saves is worth 10 times that and 100 times that if you use the platform to its full potential.

This platform allows you to research hashtags, seeing how many Instagram posts a hashtag has and how much engagement it gets. This is a tedious process but it works. And it can be tweaked and improved each month.

Decide what you think would be a really common search term, enter it into IQ Hashtags and it does the work for you.

If you can’t get IQ Hashtags, you can do a similar process inside Google. Just search a term and you will get suggestions for search terms similar to that.

The Google method doesn’t work exactly the same but it’s close. It takes a bit more time but it’s free. Remember, there’s an extra step here: you will have to find the hashtags on Google and then find them again inside of Instagram. You will have to manually research the hashtag, number of followers and number of posts.

You’re looking for about 25 to 30 hashtags, of all sizes. When you’re finding them, you will see the ones with big followings and smaller ones. You want to try to find a mix of small, medium and large. I usually go with eight to 12 hashtags per post. Split them into four or five small, six or seven medium and two to three large.

Once you find a hashtag that you think is relevant to your product or service, search it on Instagram. And then look at the posts that are using it and decide if you want to use it for your business.

For example, I will look up #onlinemarketing. There are 4.7-million posts (so definitely a highly searched #). But when I look it up, there isn’t that much shared information – there are a lot of self-promotion posts. So I need to decide if I want to get lost in this scroll or find some more niche hashtags. I decided to use #onlinemarketingtips instead because that has only 124,000 posts and it’s much closer to what I believe in my business: sharing knowledge without expectation.

This process takes some time. But be patient. Try some out and see how they perform, move them around and see where you can make some improvements.

Use this process to find the hashtags that will best help you improve your reach and grow your audience.

Donita Fowler is an online marketer who supports entrepreneurs in their quest to be the boss of their online platforms.

© Troy Media

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