By Chad Keller, COO/Co-Founder of Growth Stackers

If you haven't already tapped into the massive power of Instagram marketing, what are you waiting for? There are currently more than 800 million monthly active users and the platform is expected to reach a billion this year. That's a huge audience to consume your content.

Through my marketing agency, I have had the chance to work with hundreds of brands, from Fortune 500 companies to startups. And I continue to see the shift of consumers moving to Instagram. As consumer behavior shifts, we shift our clients' ad spend to get the largest ROI. With organic reach dying off and Instagram's algorithm constantly changing to show you content that you want to see and that is most engaging, hashtags are a must. They are one of the best ways to leverage your posts and boost organic reach on Instagram. Hashtags not only help organize content but they also help drive marketing campaigns. So how can you identify which hashtags will give your brand a boost?

Do Your Research

You can start by simply conducting a search right in Instagram itself. Just hit the magnifying glass icon on the bottom of your screen and search niche-specific keywords. You'll see both the results of your search and similar hashtags. Ideally, you want to use hashtags that enable you to hone in on your target audience. So something like #beach is fine to use, but there are millions of posts with that hashtag so standing out becomes difficult. I recommend niching down and using something like #miamibeachlife or #sealbeach. Bottom line: Get specific and don't forget to research what your competitors are using. 

While they aren't necessarily specific to Instagram, you can also enter a keyword/hashtag into Hashtagify, a tool that will look for related hashtags and group them together for you. This allows you to do a deeper dive and gather more results. Once you've identified the hashtags you want to consistently use in your posts, don't forget to keep an eye on trending hashtags as well. You can use trending hashtags (whether they're niche-related or not) to serve up content to a whole new audience. Keep in mind that trending topics related to your niche will likely deliver more targeted results. It's also a good idea to follow hashtags in your industry to see how others are engaging with their audience and to stay connected with the communities you care about. To follow a hashtag, simply search for the hashtag and click "follow." Then its posts will appear in your feed.

You can also add hashtags to your Instagram bio. When you include a hashtag in your bio, they become live links that lead to a hashtag page. To add a hashtag in your bio, just tap on "Edit Profile" and navigate to the bio section. When you type a hashtag, you will see a list of recommended ones pop up. Select the preferred hashtags you want so they appear in your profile. Keep in mind that adding hashtags to your bio does not make your profile searchable within those hashtags, so you should stick to using your own branded hashtag there when you can. 

Analyze Your Results 

Just as with any marketing campaign you create, you can't measure success without tracking data and analyzing your results. Identifying hashtags for your niche is the first step. Now you need to know which hashtags are your top performers so you can build around them. For example, if #CollegeCash is your top performing hashtag, you could pair it with related hashtags that don't get as much engagement. This will help boost those underperforming hashtags and provide more visibility.

There are several tools out there to monitor your hashtags. A few of my favorites are Iconosquare, Sprout Social and Simply Measured. With Iconosquare, you have to purchase one of their higher-tiered plans. This tool can measure hashtag engagement and break down branded or campaign hashtags growth. With Sprout Social, you can track post performance, trends in hashtag usage, audience engagement and competitor data. I love Simply Measured's hashtag analysis report. There you'll be able to see the most engaging moments during the period you're measuring, the most engaged Instagrammers who are using the hashtag, and more.

Now that you're armed with new strategies to give your brand a boost, it's time to put the power of Instagram hashtags to work for your business.  

Chad Keller is a Serial Entrepreneur - COO/Co-Founder of Growth Stackers

Published on: Apr 26, 2018