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The Four (4) Types of Hashtags We Use in Social Media Marketing

Authored December 2022 by Tim Campbell-Smith

3 minute read

Hashtags, historically referred to as the pound symbol, are a way of uniting topics and online conversations so consumers can find what they're looking for. In business, we use hashtags in social media marketing to attract the right people to our content by telling them what it's  about or who it's for. The problem is that hashtags are easy to clutter, use and abuse. If we can really identify what the hashtag is and how exactly to use a hashtag, we'll have a better sense of which ones to use.

All hashtags are either

  1. Topical.

  2. Item specific.

  3. Audience specific.

  4. Location specific.

Let's get to the core though of what these mean and how to use these hashtags:

1. Topical Hashtags.


Topical hashtags are the most used and abused hashtags. These tend to have the millions and billions of uses because they refer to topics we use in every day life, and therefore every day social media.

Examples of these include #Training #Love #Excitement #School

2. Item Specific Hashtags


People use hashtags based on items they have, they want, or they want to discuss. This type of hashtag particularly lends itself to eCommerce as small businesses sell products, and can more easily discuss those products.

Examples include #HousePlant #iPhone #WatchBattery #Notebook

3. Audience Specific Hashtags. 


People use hashtags based on how they identify or who they want to connect with. Remember though, people have multiple intersectionalities that they'll use to identify themselves, so play with these and be open to using multiple.

Examples may include #GayGuy #Entrepreneur #SmallBizOwner 

4. Location Specific Hashtags


People use hashtags based on where they are, where they're going, or where they want to go. These can include specific businesses or areas, areas or regions. 

An important note with location specific hashtags is that some cities or areas have more famous counterparts, so they don't literally use their name. For example, the city of Hamilton, Ontario doesn't use #Hamilton because you'll be more likely to discover posts about Hamilton the musical. Alternatively if someone were to use #London, they'd be more likely to get London, England and not London, Ontario. 

This is when you'd want to search the location (usually on Instagram) and see what posts people use to describe the location.

However, if you want to skip the research, I've found a safe bet for location hashtags is to use the formula hashtag # City Name + State / Province. For example, we could just use #HamiltonOntario or #LondonOntario

Examples may include #DowntownLosAngeles #Toronto #Istanbul #BarceloMayaColonial

5. Blended Hashtags 


Surprise, a fifth hashtag! Sometimes we blend hashtags, most often to find and connect with a certain type of person (audience specific hashtags) in a certain area (location specific hashtags).

Before using these, be sure they're either being used, or that you're going to encourage folks to start using them.

Examples may include #OttawaBusiness #TorontoMoms 

Tim Campbell Smith teaching a class on hashtags
A screenshot of an Instagram account with topical hashtags
A screenshot of item specific hashtags on Instagram

All social media platforms use hashtags, and those best practices on how to use hashtags in social media marketing change regularly. What has not changed though are these categories of hashtags. Be sure to use a mix of the four in all of your social media marketing efforts to get likes, engagement and in front of the right people for your business.

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