When Chris Messina first proposed the widespread use of hashtags to let help users form groups and carry out specific conversations, Twitter rejected the idea, telling Messina: “‘these things are for nerds. They’re never going to catch on.’”

Today, hashtags are to Twitter (and its social media cousins, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn) as search bars are to Google. You’ve got to determine the right hashtags if you want your brand to be seen.

Simply put, a hashtag is a social discovery tool and one of the surest means of gaining followers—that is, if you know how to use them correctly. Below we’ve answered a handful of common questions, particular to Instagram but which can be generally applied to your hashtag strategy across platforms.

Determine the right hashtags by searching hashtags.

Here’s a very simple method which, if applied for about 40 minutes every work-day, will help you consistently build a following:

After you publish your post (hashtags and all), click through each hashtag you used and engage with other users who posted with the same one.

Emulate your favorite accounts

Another tip is to follow the big accounts (500K+) that use your hashtags and turn on post notifications. Every time they post, do the same. Follow and engage with the users who are engaging with their content! It’s simple another method of audience discovery. Just be sure to select accounts which relevant to your own.If you determine the right hashtags, here, you’re golden.

To caption or not to caption hashtags?

One common tip is to put your hashtags within the caption of your photo; another popular tip is to skip the caption and include the hashtags within the comments of your photo. The truth is, hashtag placement on Instagram is a matter of personal preference. I say, it’s best to go with the caption in the event you make a typo and need to edit. Comments cannot be edited on Instagram.

Vary hashtags by popularity

You’ll want to strategically vary your hashtags by popularity. Consider when you post. You’ve used a hashtag. If you go to Instagram’s discovery tag, there it is, visible as one of Instagram’s “Most Recent Posts” with that hashtag.

If you use a high traffic tag, your post will quickly become buried under a steady stream of “Recent Posts” meaning other users will have less of a chance discovering it. So how do we suggest you mix up your hashtags?

A good rule of thumb is to split your hashtags into thirds: by industry, by niche or brand, and by situation (either location or time).

The industry hashtags are big, broad, high traffic, and usually one word hashtags: #photography, #travel, #finance, #ecofriendly.  These often rack up millions of posts a day.

Niche or branded hashtags are more specific. They narrow down your industry by tacking on an adjective to the beginning or including your brand name: #fashionphotography, #summerscore, #lovemeapitbull. These will vary from upwards of 80K to 20 posts, if, in the latter case you’ve invented your own hashtag for the purpose of tracking a campaign.

Situational hashtags include your location or an event or some other timely indicator: #stpatricksday, #tulsamarket.

In regards to ratio, experiment. You may determine the right hashtags are an even split of industry hashtags and niche hashtags works best for your brand. You may find that a crazy, specific combination of two industry hashtags, one branded hashtag, four niche hashtags work best for you. Never stop switching them up!

Lastly, check to see if your hashtag has been banned by Instagram. Here’s a thorough list from The Data Pack for you to reference.

A note about Facebook hashtags

In recent weeks, social media specialists and account managers have begun to ask themselves, “do hashtags even matter on Facebook?”

Of course, they do make a small difference. Their function is to catalogue and organize content topically. But, when was the last time you expressly searched a hashtag within Facebook? Right.

It’s true that Facebook users tend to use hashtags less regularly than Instagram and Twitter.  We’re guided to search the platform based on relationships: events that our Friends are attending, posts they like, etc.

When you share a post from Instagram to Facebook, you’ll likely want to delete the dozen hashtags you included in your Instagram caption as it won’t help you with discovery on Facebook and will look very clunky to a reader.

If you’ve included a #sponsoredpost disclosure among your hashtags and choose to share from Instagram to Facebook, leave it in; otherwise, reformat.

There’s no end to the possibilities when it comes to hashtags and audience discovery. Do you have any tips you’ve found have worked for your brand? Feel free to share them us @muses on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!

Keep learning how to grow your audience the right way with these blog posts:

Colleen Patterson is the content marketing manager for Muses, the only digital growth app focused on building long­-term relationships. She’d love you to get involved.