New Ways to Search Social Media on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and Imgur

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Happy GIFs on Imgur.

Social media is not just a send-and-receive operation. The switchboards themselves collect a huge amount of data. I searched through this to find dangerous Facebook ads as an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal. You can use search on social media to do all kinds of things. Here are 10 very cool examples.

  1. Search reddit for holiday ideas. Some people associate reddit with snark or trolls or the latest news, but the fact is there are subreddit niches on almost anything. The Halloween subreddit has 53,000 subscribers and is currently bursting with amazing costumes. The Christmas subreddit has 26,000 subscribers, and so on. There are great ideas from real people for all kinds of occasions.

2. Find the start of a romance on Facebook. If you got together with your partner within the past decade or so, you can probably find a sweet artifact of your early romance on Facebook. Just go to your partner’s profile, click the three dots on the right of their profile, click “See friendship,” scroll to the first entry, and that’s the first time the two of you connected on Facebook. For me and my partner, it’s a selfie from our second or third date, with friends telling us we make a cute couple.

3. Find Facebook friends who liked a certain movie or place or activity. I recently watched the movie “The Big Sick,” and I loved it. I’m also kind of interested in trail running, but mostly want to know if it would even be feasible for me. If I want to see if Facebook friends like these things, I can find out with a very simple search. All I have to do is go up to the search bar at the top of Facebook and type in “my friends who like The Big Sick” (or trailrunning), and click return. Then I can post on Facebook about The Big Sick and mention those friends, or reach out to them privately. Boom. I have a conversation about things I like with people I like who like the same things!

4. Find people who used to work for your competition. As a reporter I loved talking to former employees of a company. My WSJ editors would warn that they couldn’t be completely objective, and that may be true. But boy do they have information. On LinkedIn, just go to the search bar at the top and type in “People who used to work for __________”. You can refine the search by place, how closely your connected, keyword, etc.

5. Use latitude and longitude to search what people in a news situation are saying. If you search a keyword or hashtag, you get a lot of chatter and noise during a news event. I want to see what the people who are there are saying. On Twitter or Tweetdeck search geocode:latitude,longitude,radius as shown in this screenshot.

6. Search to see tweets from a certain location using a certain hashtag. You could search tweets from Moscow using #MAGA. You could also search #GOBLUE coming from Columbus, Ohio. Or #BEATLA coming from Los Angeles, or all kinds of provocative combinations of place and hashtag.

7. Use Tweetdeck to monitor tweets mentioning a certain topic by powerful users. Let’s say you’re a big SoulCycle fan, and you really like to know when someone famous tweets about them in San Francisco. You can set up a column on Tweetdeck that will show you whenever a verified user in San Francisco tweets about SoulCycle and gets a little engagement. Not a SoulCycle fan? OK, imagine your family owns a pizzeria. You might like to know when a big name is tweeting about pizza in your city. Configure the search, and you always will. Voila, opportunistic social marketing.

8. See what you or any other user tweeted during a certain stretch of time – or many other specific queries on Twitter’s advanced search page. Searching Twitter via the box at the top of the website is almost pointless. You’ve got to narrow it down some or you’ll get nowhere. Twitter’s advanced search page can do that, in a helpful variety of ways.

9. See if a sketchy account changed its username. OK, fair warning: This is a little tricky. It’s not just flipping a switch. But if you really want to dig into an account you think has done wrong, knowing its previous handle can really shine some light into its dark past. Bob Leggitt does a great job of explaining how on his blog Twirpz here. Happy private eyeing! It can be very important work.

10. Find way better GIFs. If you have been posting the GIFs supplied by Twitter and Facebook, that is a small supply from Giphy, a nice website I know well and love. But it’s a great big giphable world out there, and Imgur has collected a lot of it. Imgur is where reddit media is born, and if you join up you can search, share, and download a wealth of GIFs that are not mostly taken from TV. Real life, people! Real life! Why be on social media if you’re only sharing GIFs from TV?

Written by

Former WSJ reporter and syndicated columnist working in the blogosphere. Once sold books to Johnny Cash. My Medium post about that was praised by Paris Review.

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