Hashtags walk a fine line between being helpful and being annoying.

On top of that, they’re not as helpful on some social platforms as others. But one place where you shouldn’t fear them: Instagram. They’re wildly useful there.

One of the biggest benefits of using hashtags is they turn words you’ve hashtagged into live links. This means your photo becomes grouped with other photos using the same hashtag. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to an audience already interested in your focus who isn’t (yet) following you.

But blindly hashtagging your posts will give you little edge, so here are some tips so small businesses can make the most of hashtagging on Instagram. I’ll post some examples from our Instagram profile where we regram Instagram photos from businesses and business supporters.

1. Write a short caption in addition to using hashtags. You’ll see folks using hashtags in place of a caption sometimes, but I often need more context than this supplies.

For example, in the photo above, the first caption cited the photographer, and our caption built on that by including details on the art installation and the location, so if someone wanted to see it, they could.

Notice the original caption included some of the most popular, general hashtags out there, such as #instagood, #wanderlust, #travel and #nyc. We got more specific with our captions in hopes of reaching a more focused audience by specifying the neighborhood (#dumbo) and the performance artists associated with the art installation (#coreact).

2. Don’t use more than 30 hashtags or Instagram won’t display your comment. I’ve read not to use more than five to avoid looking too marketing-y, but lots of hashtags don’t bother me on Instagram like they do on Facebook or Twitter. They can be a helpful shorthand, plus they autofill once you’ve used them.

Look at what others do and decide how many hashtags you’re comfortable with. Here are a couple of examples.

In the example above, there’s a total of seven hashtags, and the photo received 15 likes — a solid showing.

Here’s another.

This photo has 16 hashtags and 27 likes. Now, hashtags and likes don’t always correspond, but we’ve found that more hashtags typically equals more likes. You’re simply reaching a larger audience.

However, I don’t recommend using a slew of hashtags willy-nilly. You still need to be deliberate in your hashtag selection.

3. Look to savvy industry professionals to help you determine what hashtags to use for your business. It’s a good starting point for your hashtag use. I use this technique personally.

I’m not a car person, so the use of hashtags here was helpful to me for regramming auto photos in the future. Now I know to include the make of the car, and the hashtag #autobody helps me reach a highly targeted audience.

4. Here are a few hashtags you should ALWAYS use:

  • Your location — this could be a city, neighborhood and/or region.
  • Lifestyle hashtags, such as #glutenfree. You’re often reaching a group very committed to their particular lifestyle
  • Any holidays. Look to Twitter’s “Trends” to find out the most popular version of the holiday hashtags.
  • Affiliated initiatives. Some businesses and events tout a recommended hashtag.
  • This isn’t essential, but don’t be afraid to be playful and make up your own hashtag phrases. It shows personality.

Between the original caption and our additional one, this photo takes advantage of many of our recommendations by including hashtags that call out location (#miami), lifestyle (#farmtotable) and initiatives (#upick). There’s even a playful #getreadytopicksomeberries for fun.

5. Use the hashtag #explorelocal!

Why? Because it’s our hashtag initiative that we use to promote small businesses!

You can also give us a follow and say hello either in the comments here or on Instagram, and we’ll follow you. We’re always on the lookout for small businesses to regram!

Learn more about using Instagram with this infographic!