Facebook search is possibly the most powerful, under-used feature available to us all. Most of us will happily type in a friends name, a group name or a page we’re searching for, but rarely will we use the function for more interesting searches.
But maybe you will after reading this article. We’re going to take you through the how and why of these extremely useful searches, so you’ll be able to find just about anything.
How to Search for Friends on Facebook
This is the most basic of searches: typing your friend’s name into the search bar. The results will find people you’ve friended on Facebook, friends of friends, celebrities and more, hopefully in the right order for you to find who you’re looking for.
Now, you can also search directly for the email address of someone you know. If they’ve added that email address to Facebook and made it visible to you, you’ll find them straight away. And don’t forget that by importing your contacts Facebook will automatically suggest your friends that match those email addresses too.
How to Search for Someone on Facebook
So, what if you’re trying to find someone in particular who isn’t a friend of yours? Perhaps you’re doing a bit of genealogy and trying to find a distant relative you’ve never met. Here’s where you can start to use some of the other search functions.
For starters, when typing in someone’s name and looking at the suggested results, Facebook will show you if you’re not connected directly to a person, as you’ll be able to add them as a friend. It will also show you how many mutual friends you have, and who those people are. So, in the case of searching for a distant relative, you may find the right person more easily by noting the relatives more closely related to you.
If they have a very common name, you could narrow the results down by using some of the following search tools.
How to Search by Phone Number on Facebook
Believe it or not, you can actually search for a phone number in the regular Facebook search field. Try it with your own number, or your best friend, if you don’t believe it.
How can this phone search be useful? Well, remember that gorgeous girl you met at the bar last night? Would it be insane to check out her Facebook profile before you call? What about business cards you’ve collected at a conference? That person you’re considering hiring? The other people on the cast list of your local theater group?
I think this is incredibly useful, actually. Just don’t become a stalker with it.
How to Search for Posts on Facebook
This is the everyday Facebook search query. It’s the one where you’re looking for any news and chit-chat on a particular topic.
You can just focus on a simple keyword or you can actually make use of Facebook Graph Search to find results relevant to you. Facebook actually gives the best example of this themselves: You vaguely recall a friend mentioning their mom made the best cookies and linking to the recipe. Now, who was it? And where’s that recipe?
Start with “Cookie Recipe” and you might actually find something useful, but add in names of who you think it might have been and suddenly you hit gold. Facebook knows that the “Lisa” you mean is your friend Lisa, not some other random person, so that result is the exact post you originally saw. AND the recipe.
I’ve previously noted many more ways you can use the Facebook graph search to find interesting things and search for cool stuff about your friends. For instance, try “posts about Netflix by people who like the TV shows that I like”, or “posts about politics by people who like Greenpeace”, or “posts I commented on about cookies”.
There is an incredible amount of information right there at your fingertips. You don’t have to limit yourself to hashtag searches when there’s so much else you can do.
How to Search History on Facebook
If you want to search just your own posts, you can use the regular search bar as above, just using “posts by me” or you can search through your activity in a different way.
Head to your activity log: https://www.facebook.com/me/allactivity
Now, you have a simple search field you can use to find things you posted, either on your own timeline, in groups or on pages. This search isn’t actually as powerful as Facebook’s graph search.
For instance, in my activity feed I could see a post I’d recently liked from a private group. I searched for a few keywords in my activity feed and it gave me no result, even though I could clearly see it right there. With the Facebook Graph Search, I threw in the same keywords and it gave me the result saying that my friend had posted about it, then took me straight to that post.
My advice: Use the activity feed to browse, but do all of your searching in the regular Facebook Graph Search field.
How to Search for Groups on Facebook
Groups are tough, because while you can search for public or closed groups, some of the best are secret. They’re hidden away and you’ll never find them by searching (because they don’t want to be found).
Also, if you search for “group” followed by the topic you’re interested in, all the top suggested results will be for groups you’re already in. It’s actually better to just search for the keyword of the group, press enter so you get the full selection of results, then click on the “Groups” tab of the results to filter it properly. This way you’ll find lots of groups for whatever niche you’re after.
How to Search by Location on Facebook
For the primitive location search of Facebook, just type the location name. If you’re searching for anything at all to do with a particular place, just using the place name as a keyword will bring up casual comments, news, events, check-ins, and the rest. That’s the first thing you’d do if you were about to travel there, for instance.
You can also get a little more specific, by phrasing your search like a regular sentence. Try “vegetarian restaurants in Bordeaux” and you’ll see all two of the restaurants jump out at you.
But names are re-used throughout the world and can get confusing as keywords for searches. And although Facebook does try to anticipate what you mean, eventually it has to offer more results just in case you meant something else.
If you want to know how to search by city in a more nuanced way, try searching for the postcode instead of the city name. So, Bordeaux city center would be “vegetarian restaurant in 33000”. Strangely, this brings up a different result, because one of the original restaurants is in the greater Bordeaux area, not in the center of the city. This is perfect if you’re actually looking for a restaurant close to where you’re going to be.
But you can get even more specific too: try “Hotels in New York visited by my friends” or “Places in London visited by people who like David Tennant”. I’m sure you can think of more along those lines!
What Do You Think of Facebook Search?
Don’t forget that you can only see things that have been shared with you or publicly. So, the results you get will depend on your friends and their privacy settings. The same goes for the other way around: if you don’t want things to show up in Facebook searches, you simply need to sort out your privacy settings, make sure you’re not sharing your location unwittingly, untag yourself from photos, and perhaps also ask a few friends to remove some photos of you completely.
After you master Facebook search, how about trying these geeky Facebook hacks next?