You may be old enough to remember when the symbol # was referred to as a “pound sign” or a “number sign.” Now, however, that symbol means one thing, and one thing only: it is a hashtag.

If you didn’t spend your teenage years hashtagging your tweets, at least, you may need some help when it comes to social media marketing. Hashtags can serve a valuable purpose, but they can also be used wantonly and ineffectively. Read on to find out how you can use Instagram hashtags to boost your brand’s visibility and increase the number of leads you get.

One important thing to know is the difference between a community hashtag and a branded one. Community hashtags are those like #tacotuesday or #nationalstarwarsday or #catsofinstagram or even a political message like #dumptrump.

Community hashtags serve as a way for IG users to give context to their posts, to join a conversation, or to find followers (or people to follow). Hashtags are searchable, meaning that someone who’s interested in learning, say, gardening tips and tricks could search Instagram for #containergardening or #flowergarden or #homegrowntomato.

It’s important for both brands and individual users not to clutter up their IG with useless or generic hashtags. A tag like #summer, #cat, or #food isn’t likely to attract the kind of followers or likes — at least not the kind you want. And posts that have a whole paragraph of these vague hashtags are just plain annoying.

Instead, generate some branded hashtags. Your company name or product name can be a hashtag, as can your slogan or motto. For example, a popular YouTube yoga teacher uses her slogan as a hashtag: #findwhatfeelsgood.

Even more effective, however, is to engage customers by inspiring them to use your branded hashtag. How? Let’s take a look.

Imagine you own an organic market called Lulu’s. Your tagline is Eat Amazing Things, so you hashtag that, and you also abbreviate it #EAT or #EATlulus. For the summer months, you decide to offer a monthly prize package — a branded tote bag filled with organic food and an organic cotton picnic blanket — to your Instagram followers. You could try creating a new, contest-specific hashtag like #EATpicnic or #luluspicnic.

After you’ve done that, spread the word! Ask you followers to use that hashtag in order to be entered into the drawing for the prize. Chances are they’ll use your regular hashtag as well. Boom. Your hashtag is gaining traction, and your customers have done most of the work. Pretty nifty, huh?

This is one of many great IG ideas on AutomaticLikes; check out some of their other valuable tips.

As of December 2016, Instagram had a whopping 600 million users. That’s an astonishing number of people swiping through photos and searching hashtags every day. Why not learn more about how to tap into this market, using photos, videos, and of course hashtags — whether custom, branded, or community — to connect with your customers, build brand loyalty, and increase your leads?