Facebook People Search: 5 Tips for Getting Started
So, you found a Profile on Facebook. Now, where do I go from here? That’s the question I get most often and I can tell you that scrolling through timelines, photo albums and Facebook Likes is the hard road to travel.
Facebook’s People Search actually begins after you find the Profile. In this post I’m sharing 5 queries to launch this journey and search with a purpose using Facebook Graph URLs. Each query has a different strength and a different focus. Each also leads us down different paths.
If you’d like background before getting started, see my previous articles on The Language of Facebook and Finding Facebook IDs. These search strings you see below can be built with the assistance of my Facebook Search Tool.
If you’re looking for the default starting point, this is it. The /photos-of/ query requests all Photos tagged to a Profile. This means you’ll see all Photos that someone else linked to the Profile you’re looking at. It also includes Photos uploaded by that Profile as the Profile Photo unless it’s set to private.
Photo tags can be anything from a picture to a business logo, a funny Meme or just about anything you can upload to Facebook. And, that’s what’s great about this search. Tags provide information about almost any Profile, private or public, provided it has connections and is actively used. Accounts can, of course, block tags and when we suspect this we move onto query #2. You can see this query in action by clicking the links below.
Profile Photos and Photos Tagged to Profile by Anyone
Profile Photos and Profile Tagging Itself
Photos Tagged to Profile by Year
This search provides a glimpse into the account holder’s personality and their level of sharing on Facebook. The Friends’ Tags also share their perspective from their timeline. You might not see the same Photos on the timeline of Profile you’re targeting. Friends’ Tags also help to establish the identity of the Profile through the content, as well as the locations of the Friends and Photo, when provided.
This query opens the door to Photo search where the first inclination is to scroll through albums. Wouldn’t you rather search with a purpose? You can do this by probing Facebook Graph for the particular Photos you’re interested in. Let’s take a quick look at how Graph structures Photos so that you can define the possible directions your search can take.
The /photos-of/ query (a.k.a. /photos-tagged/) is actually a subset of all Photos taken by a Profile, which is /photos-by/ (a.k.a. /photos-uploaded/). Think of this as the top-level for Photos.
There are several things we do with Photos that we can also place in a query: We can add descriptions, tag locations and Friends, we can Like, Comment and Share them, and we can modify their Dates and privacy settings. So, instead of scrolling through an album to see if anything is relevant, we can create a query to probe for it. For example, we can search for All Photos by the Profile in a Place or Tagged with a Friend. We can search for Photos they Liked or Commented on the timelines of Friends. We can also filter these queries by Dates and by the Keywords located in the Photo descriptions, i.e. All Photos by the Profile in 2010 that referenced “Widgets.”
These queries and filters make it possible to sift through years of Photos faster and with a cause. Your core Photo search options are listed below.
Facebook Photo Options
Queries and filters make it possible to find what’s relevant to you. Would you like to see all Photos taken by a Profile at a particular Place and time? You can do that and drill down even deeper with Facebook Graph, as I’ll illustrate in the sections below. First, here’s how to search with that question:
Photos by a Profile at a Place
Photos by a Profile at a Place during a Date
Recent Photos by a Profile
TIP: Photo queries also work for Videos. Just replace “photos” with “videos” in your search string.
2. PHOTOS / POSTS LIKED & COMMENTED
In the previous section, we used /photos-of/ to look for Photos. But what happens when the Profile is set to private? These Profiles can block others from tagging them with privacy settings. However, this doesn’t necessarily block the Comments they place on public Pages and Profiles. This is where Likes and Comments make a great launching point for searching private accounts.
Likes and Comments queries look for interactions on someone else’s timeline. You won’t see these interactions by scrolling through the Profile’s timeline because they take place somewhere else. Keep in mind that what you see is also determined by the privacy settings for both Profiles. Those queries are listed here.
Facebook Likes & Comments Options
Facebook does not deliver these search results in a chronological order. The number of Likes, Comments and Shares influence that. Date filters are easy to add and they’re a great way to sift through years of conversations.
Posts Liked by a Profile that were Dated This Year
Date filters are also helpful if you periodically monitor accounts because you can limit the results to content since your last visit. Just remember that, with any complex search, the query is placed on the left next to Facebook.com/search/str and the filter or refinement is placed on the right. The URL is also closed with /intersect/. Otherwise, Facebook will not understand the question.
Filters are also created with a structure. For Dates, that structure identifies the Object (Photos), and that it has a Date, and what that Date is (Yesterday), i.e. /yesterday/date/photos/.
There are at least 11 Date filters that you can use with Photos and Posts and you’ll find them listed below.
Facebook Date Options
/YEAR/ i.e. 2010
Here’s how you would build the last query for Photos taken within a Date range.
Photos at a Place between Year A and Year B
Would you like to see all Photos Uploaded, Liked and Commented by a Profile in the same search? Try using the /photos-interested/ string. If you want to view Likes and Comments only, use the /photos-interacted/ string. These are the catch-all queries for Photos and you can see them in action below.
Photos Uploaded, Liked and Commented by a Profile that were Dated in 2005
Photos Liked and Commented by a Profile that were Dated in 2005
TIP: To display the list of Profiles that Like a Photo or Post, right click on the hyperlinked Like count and open the link in a new tab. For Posts with a large number of Comments, expand the number of visible Comments by switching to a mobile URL, i.e. replace “www” with “m.”
Switch Post Comments to a Mobile view
3. CHECK-INS / RECENT PLACES
Are locations a key element to your search? If so, Check-in and Place queries are the launching pad for you. Users add Places to their Photos and Posts through Check-ins, which are also known as Visits. Check-ins are actually links to the Facebook Page created for the Business or Place that they’re visiting. Each Page has its own Facebook ID and that enables us to find connections between IDs Photos and Profiles.
To find all places visited by a user, the Check-in query is /places-visited/ a.k.a./places-checked-in/. If the Place is the focus of your search, you’ll use a query t find all people who Checked-in there, i.e. /visitors/. There’s also one query that simply identifies all recent Check-ins by a Profile and it’s especially helpful when you’re checking an account periodically: /recent-places-visited/.
Here’s what the search results for these queries look like.
Recent Places Visited by a Profile
All Places Visited by a Profile
All Profiles that Checked-in to a Place
Facebook does not provide a Date filter for Places. To get a date, you’ll need to scrape or browse through the Profile’s timeline to view the Check-in post directly. Check-ins are actually links in a Post as opposed to a text entry, so this makes keyword search challenging .You cannot locate a Check-in by keyword search unless that keyword was manually entered in the accompanying Post or Photo description.
One thing you can filter particularly well with Places are the locations within them. For example, a City is a Place that also with local Businesses, Landmarks, Restaurants and Airports that link to it as their physical Location. These Businesses are Places In a Place and you can apply that as a query to explore locations that a Profile has Visited within a City, State and Country.
Recent Locations Visited by a Profile within a Place
Locations and Places can be complex to explore because there’s many ways that we interact with them on Facebook. We can Visit a Place. We also take Photos and tag them to the Location with Posts, Comments and our Reviews about the Place. We hold events at Places and, of course, we are Residents in these Places that also house our Employers and Schools. There’s many directions that you can pursue with Place search. Your primary options are listed below.
Facebook Check-in and Place Options
Keywords are the easiest way to filter a Place query. Keywords can find people who Visited a Place by Name. It can also find Businesses within the Place by their name.
Another filter you can apply are Categories and this is where it really gets complex. Categories are tags and they describe the activity of the Business. For example, the San Diego Zoo is tagged with two Categories that you can see on their Facebook Page: Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoos & Aquarium. The Page links to other Pages that host these Categories. It also links to a Facebook Page for the city of San Diego Page through its physical location. These links to the San Diego Page and the Category Pages make it possible for us to search and find the San Diego Zoo in multiple ways, i.e. All Zoos in San Diego, All Wildlife Sanctuaries in San Diego, All Places named Zoo in San Diego / United States. It also enables us to search Check-ins by City, Business and by Category, i.e. all Check-ins at Airports.
Let’s take a look at some of these queries and how we can shift the focus using a Keyword, Place or Category filter.
All Profiles that Checked-in to a Place
Users by Name who Checked-in to a Place
Places Checked In by a Profile by Keyword Name
American Restaurants Visited by a Profile
American Restaurants in City Visited by a Profile
Airports in a City (businesses inside Airports also tag this Category)
Airports Visited by a Profile
Places Visited by a Profile Near a specific Business
Places Visited by a Profile within a City/Country
Places Visited by a Profile that are Colleges in a City/Country
Categories afford the largest options for targeting search. But, as you see with the Airport search, it relies on the accuracy of the Page that linked to the Category. Category search is interesting, but it isn’t always accurate or all-inclusive.
TIP: View all attendees for an Event by viewing the page with a Mobile URL.
4. PHOTOS / POSTS BY KEYWORD
Keyword search for Posts was introduced by Facebook in 2015. But, did you know you can also find Photos with keywords? Keyword search excels at targeting conversations and, for this reason, Keywords can help you find and verify things associated with an identity. A well-crafted search can target references in Posts and Photos associated with an identity, such as the name of a website or business owned by the Profile, the name of a current employer or past school, or keywords that describe personal activities, hobbies or skills normally associate with this identity.
Hashtags are another form of keyword search. Hashtags work on a macro level and they find Profiles sharing common interests via a phrase preceded by “#.”. Hashtags monitor general topics and conversational sentiment, while Photos and Post Keywords zoom in on personal content. Remember, too, that Profiles aren’t the only content creators on Facebook. Pages and Groups also generate searchable content. You’ll find several examples illustrated below.
Profile Posts by Keyword
Descriptions on Photos Uploaded by a Profile
Posts from a Page by Keyword
Posts in a Group by Keyword
Keyword search is easy to implement and it’s based on these 3 strings.
Facebook Keyword Search Options
As we’ve already seen, Keywords can be combined with other filters like Dates and Places. And, like Places, you’ll find a large number of queries that target specific subsets of Posts in addition to Likes, Comments and Tags, such as Publishers, News Stories, Reviews and more. To get more information on how to format these queries, see the “Graph Search” section of my Facebook search tool.
Facebook Post Queries
Let’s see what some of the Post queries look like in action.
Posts about a Keyword at a Place
Photos about a Keyword at a Place
Photos about a Keyword at a Place and Date
Posts by a Profile about a Keyword at a Place
Posts with Photos or Videos tagged to Place
Reviews at a Place
Photos by a Profile about a Keyword
Profiles that published Posts about a Keyword
News Stories with a Keyword
News Stories with a Keyword by Date
Live News Stories with a Keyword
TIP: The /stories-keyword/ query also finds text located within a Profile’s Notes and Posts located within Groups. Privacy settings apply to include whether the Group’s access is Public, Closed or Secret. Hyperlinks within a Post are not searchable and do not count as keywords.
5. USERS-NAMED / PAGES-NAMED
Keyword search also powers the /users-named/and /pages-named/ queries. Consider these queries when you need to check or corroborate a Profile against a piece of information or when process of elimination makes sense in your Profile search.
User search is good for checking names against things that you’ll find on the Profile’s About page like Employers, Schools Cities or the Pages they Like. These Likes can include Websites or Businesses that this Profile owns, so keep that in mind.
Facebook Post Queries
Page search is helpful when the exact name is not known. You can also use it to refine the Pages Liked query for a Profile. Here are some examples of both in use.
Users by Name
Users by Name who Reside in a Place
Users by Name who Visited a Place
Users by Name who Like a Page, Place or Business
Pages Liked by a Profile with a particular Name
All Pages by Name
Here are some more variations illustrating how you can filter a list and find specific results with the /users-named/ string..
Employees of a Company with a specific Name
People by Name at a specific Employer
Friends of a Profile by Name
Classmates of a Profile by Graduation Year
Classmates of a School by Graduation Year
Persons by Name at a School by Graduation Year
As you can see, Keyword search let’s you probe for relevance and saves you from scrolling.
TIP: Pages create content, too. Use the Page ID to search for content created by Page Administrators or research their Likes, Comments and Photo Tags.
Facebook Graph URLs add purpose to your search and the results are more targeted than you can achieve with native search.
Practice these 5 queries and experiment by adding different filters. These queries aren’t the only way to start your search, but they can introduce different perspectives and different directions for your Facebook journey. You can create these queries and more with the help of a Facebook search tool.