Profitable or Popular? Make Hashtags Work for You. Learn how to use hashtags on Instagram to achieve balanced results.

By Kim Walsh Phillips

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Most businesses focus on either profit or popularity when using social media marketing. Either they are focused on getting lots of followers and tons of engagements, or they are knee-deep in direct response data, split testing and data mining to achieve more sales. But just as Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were born out of an indecisive, Why not have both? attitude, you need to find a balance as you build your tribe. In other words...

Related: 3 Ways to Leverage Hashtags to Enhance Your Brand

You can have both.

I only had 360 followers when I started writing Ultimate Guide to Instagram for Business. I had a little engagement, but I certainly wasn't making any money with my account. Over the course of three months, spending no money on advertisements on the platform, I grew the account to more than 6,000 followers. Now, I have new email subscribers who fit my perfect prospect profile coming in organically nearly every day. Our results have brought real list growth and profits, with a total of 1,052 downloads in the last 90 days alone. The average value per Instagram opt-in is $44.60.

A cornerstone requirement of success on Instagram is to grow account followers. I did a lot of testing to see what works and what fails miserably. Ultimately, I found hashtags are the most effective way to grow your account. When it comes to using Instagram for business, it would be foolish not to use hashtags. According to Simply Measured, using even a single hashtag increases post engagement by 12.6 percent. Hashtags are an effective way to drive organic traffic to your content.

Related: 10 Secrets to Instagram Millions, According to Abigail Ratchford

Make the tags work for you.

The most popular hashtags are general words like #love and #summer. However, these really don't do anything to drive engaged, quality traffic since they are not specific and usually only attract numbers instead of potential followers. The more specific you can get, while still employing a frequently used hashtag, the more successfully you will attract an engaged and on-point audience.

So how do you find the right hashtags to use? Start by reviewing 20 of the most popular brands or companies in your niche, and check out the hashtags they are using. For example, I searched #entrepreneur for my niche to see associated hashtags. Make a list of these hashtags and start to test them on your posts. You will quickly determine which ones work, which ones don't, and which ones vary. Remember: the more specific, the better.

The list I use for my posts is:

#work #success #working #grind #founder #startup #money #magazine #moneymaker #startuplife #successful #passion #inspiredaily #hardwork #hardworkpaysoff #desire #motivation #motivational #lifestyle #happiness #entrepreneur #entrepreneurs #entrepreneurship #entrepreneurlife #business #businessman #quoteoftheday #businessowner #businesswoman

I then went through each account and made a master list of most-used hashtags and started to test different combinations on my posts. A few garnered many more followers and likes, while others didn't seem to make a difference. Keep track of yours while you are testing!

My final list was:

#work #success #working #grind #founder #startup #money #magazine #moneymaker #startuplife #successful #passion #inspiredaily #hardwork #hardworkpaysoff #desire #motivation #motivational #lifestyle #happiness #entrepreneur #entrepreneurs #entrepreneurship #entrepreneurlife #business #businessman #quoteoftheday #businessowner #businesswoman

Caption Lifehack

It is super frustrating to type all of these hashtags each time you post on your mobile device -- don't do it! Instead, create an Instagram post signature and save it in an online list keeper -- like Apple or Google Notes or Evernote. Plus, you can type out the hashtags on your desktop. This way, you only need to copy and paste. That is my jam. The most hashtags you are allowed to use is 30. If you use more, Instagram will delete your comment. Start slowly and as you find hashtags that work, build on them.

Related: Your Hashtag and Your Brand Go Hand in Hand

Beyond growing followers.

Besides using hashtags to grow followers, categorizing content using the # symbol is a powerful marketing tool. Include among your list of hashtags a signature one that is just yours as reinforcement for your brand. For example, when I launched my last book, No B.S. Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing with Dan Kennedy, we used the hashtag phrase #NoBSsm and readers posted pictures with their book using that hashtag. Whether used to grow followers, launch a contest or build your brand, hashtags remain one of the most powerful tools of the Instagram network. Leverage them to grow your following and online authority.

Check out this 21-day blueprint to growing your Instagram followers!

Kim Walsh Phillips

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Founder of Powerful Professionals

Kim Walsh Phillips went from 32 clients to over 11,000 in less than a year and founded Powerful Professionals, a business coaching company that has been scaling consulting and coaching businesses. Phillips is the best-selling author of The No BS Guide To Direct Response Social Media Marketing.

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