While some businesses still question whether or not the use of hashtags in business is for popularity or profit, the truth is that building and maintaining an effective hashtag strategy is one of the best and easiest ways to get your posts discovered by audiences on Instagram. As a result, hashtags can mean more engagement, more followers, and, for small e-commerce businesses, more customers. Hashtags attract consumers to your site, help your followers understand what your brand stands for, and engage with you over time. The use of hashtags can allow you to build relationships, encourage interest in what you are doing, and grow your company’s presence among so that rises above the competition.

While there are many suggestions and guides to Instagram hashtag use that you will want to explore, it’s important to start by understanding the ways in which Instagram hashtags can be profitable for your business.

Reach new audiences

Most businesses start their marketing campaign by pitching to a target audience. They develop a sense of the individuals they believe will be interested in their product or who will benefit from their service. Reaching out to a new audience you may not have considered is not easy. Instagram hashtags help you reach new audiences because the filtering mechanism allows individuals who are looking at related content will see what you are posting. The method is affordable, especially for new businesses who may have limited capacity for advertising funding.  For people who are new on social media or new to Instagram, Instagram hashtags provide an instantaneous way to contact those who were previously out of reach. Ultimately, this can mean substantial benefits to your business by both increased traffic to your online sites and profits via sales.

Advance your authority

Social listening represents one of the biggest and most important social media trends. Brands that engage in social listening know what their followers are reading, posting, and buzzing about. Insight into the topics they’re interested in helps companies understand their target audiences better. If posts around a certain hashtag or campaign perform well, that is a direct indication to keep that topic in the content rotation or to expand your knowledge of the conversation. Brands make themselves more relevant and credible by tracking hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and keeping an eye on Facebook trends in order to always be “in the know” and on the forefront of changes and shifts in conversations or trending topics.

Market your brand

Growing followers is important, but categorizing your content using the hashtag symbol is also a powerful marketing tool. Not only can you include a signature hashtag that is germane to your company and reinforcement of your brand, but it can also be used to launch a contest, share news about a social good event, or promote user-generated content. Hashtags can easily be leveraged to grow your following, increase brand awareness, and improve your authority among competitors with a limited investment of time, money, or effort.

Speaking of time investment, one caption lifehack that is important to note when talking about marketing your brand is creating an Instagram post signature. By creating a signature and saving it in an online list keeper (like Apple, Google Notes, or Evernote), you can type out hashtags once and save. This way, you can copy and paste, rather than typing all of your relevant hashtags each time you post on your mobile device.

Separate from the competition

Hashtag filtering allows you to remove yourself from competition in your industry. Using hashtags correctly and in a variety of ways means you can become popular in a particular forum and in a specific way. Removal of competition can be of great benefit, as you separate and distinguish yourself within a community of like-minded individuals. Make sure that the hashtags you use are getting the results you desire.

Boost sales

While this one goes without saying and businesses are always looking for the enhancement of sales, developing a hub of people is about more than profit. Increased followers lead to increased engagement which can lead to valuable profits in both money and exposure. Hashtags allow you to contact and engage with many people at the same time, create professional images that promote your brand and develop a strategic marketing plan that is both time- and cost-effective. If you’re looking beyond followers and hashtags, you can always look to Instagram directly to drive sales.

What are some ways in which you have found Instagram hashtags profitable for your ecommerce or stone and mortar business? Free free to share your stories here.