Social media search tips you may not know about for Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram

What do you do when you want to search for something online?

You probably open up Google in your Internet browser and type in your search, right?

But what if you’re in the middle of using a social network? You’d have to leave the webpage on your desktop or app on your smartphone and start your search on Google.

Social networks don’t want you to leave, so they’ve built in some helpful search tools you may not know about. In case you haven’t been using them, here are a few tips on using three social networks – Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram – to conduct a search.

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook introduced its Graph Search tool (the search bar at the top of Facebook’s desktop page or smartphone app) in 2013. It pulls information from Facebook’s big data resources – as well as your relationships, activity, and pages you like – to help you find people, pages, posts and other options based on your search query. To be honest, it’s not the easiest search tool, but once you start trying some searches, you’ll learn what types of queries Graph Search responds to in order to produce the best results.

Here’s a few examples of some things you might use Graph Search to discover:

  1. Friends who live in certain locations

If you’re traveling and wondering which of your friends live in your destination city, try using the search “friends in” and adding the city. You can see what happened when I searched for friends who live in Boston:

Facebook Graph Search Friends in Boston

  1. Friends who work at a business

If you’re job searching, networking, or trying to do business with another business, you may want to try finding out who you know who works at the business to get your foot in the door. Try this search: “my friends who work at” and the name of the business. Here’s my search for friends who work at my former employer, Fitchburg State University:

Facebook Graph Search Friends Who Work At.png

  1. Friends who like a Facebook page

Let’s say you like a business page of a new restaurant, but you haven’t gone there yet and you want to know how good the food is. Or you like a business page and have a question about its return policy. You might want to check with friends who are familiar with the business. Enter these search terms: my friends who like” and the name of the business. This is what happens when I search for my friends who like Southwest Airlines:

Facebook Graph Search Friends Who Like.png

  1. Local business directory

Just about every business has a Facebook page, which means Facebook can be used as a directory for local businesses. For example, if you’re looking for a specific type of restaurant, like Italian restaurants in Boston, enter those terms into the search box, and then click the Pages tab to show the pages of the businesses that match the search terms. This is a search I did to find Italian restaurants in Boston:

Facebook Graph Search Italian Restaurants in Boston.png

Pinterest Visual Search

Pinterest has text search tools like other networks, but what makes Pinterest really stand out with search is its visual search tool that finds other pins that share the same image. The visual search tool is available on any pin.

Get started by clicking on a pin that has something in the image you’d like to search for to see Pinterest pins containing similar items. When you find a pin you like, click on it to enhance its size, and then access the visual search tool by clicking the magnifying glass in the top right of a pin.

Pinterest Visual Search Magnifying Glass.png

The search tool opens a search box that you can resize over the pin to focus on a specific item in an image, or you can resize it over the entire pin. Once you’ve set the search box size, Pinterest visual search will show you pins that match your image.

If you see an icon next to the word from and a business name under the images in pins that show up in the search results, these are product pins, which means it’s easy for you to buy the product pictured in this pin. Product pins are linked to retailers’ websites – the retailers add code on their site that connects their web content to their Pinterest profile and content – which means that you can click on the pin and go directly to the retailer’s website to purchase the product.

Pinterest Visual Search Results.png

Instagram’s Local Search

Because of the location tags you can add to Instagram posts, Instagram has become a great way to find out what’s going on at locations near you.

Start by going to the search bar in Instagram and clicking the Places tab. Instagram will offer a search for places near your current location, as well as suggested cities nearby. Click the Near Current Location to find locations that have been recently tagged in Instagram posts.

Instagram Search 1.PNG

Choose one of the locations in the list.

Instagram Search 2.PNG

Instagram will show you a map of that location, a list of the top 9 posts from that location (posts that have gotten the most engagement – likes, comments, and shares), and a reverse chronological list of the most recent images that have been tagged with the location.

Instagram Search 3.PNG

Why would you want to use this? You could be visiting a new city and looking for something to do. You could be bored and want to find out if there’s anything worth checking out in your area. Or you could have plans to attend a place or event, and you can check out the recent images from the location to see if it’s worth checking out.

What are your favorite search tips?

These are the social media search tips I use the most, but there are tons of ways to search using social networks. What are your favorites? Did I miss some big ones? Let me know in the comments.


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