Over the years, it’s gotten harder to conduct meaningful searches in Facebook. Sure… you can type in someone’s name and then browse through the profiles of everyone with that name (or something similar). But what if you want to find someone based on their profile—where they work, what degrees they have, and what their interests are?
Although the syntax is anything but intuitive, there are ways to construct a specific URL that executes a search that you can’t run by simply typing into the search box. (I’m indebted to Paul Myers of Research Clinic for a detailed page with the search operators necessary to build a Graph Search query.)
For example, here are searches that dig deep into Facebook to find people matching your specific criteria:
- People who have worked at the Monterey (CA) Bay Aquarium
- Teachers who speak H’mong
- University of Colorado students who are interested in blockchain technology
- Nurses who have also worked as librarians
The structure of the searches is a little tricky. You start with www.facebook.com/search and then add elements and connectors to construct a query. The possible combinations are almost endless—/places-named to find establishments with a particular word in their name, /photosin/ to find photos taken at a particular location, /likers to find people who like an organization, and so on. Again, see Paul Myers’ Facebook Graph Codes & Operators page for all the deets.
Curiously, the search results page incorrectly indicates that you could get the same results by typing in equivalent words. In the example to the left, in which I was looking for people over the age of 50 who like Whole Foods, it looks like you could get the same results by typing People who like Whole Foods Market and are older than 50. However, if you click the search button at this point, you would get something completely different—in this case, a list of three videos about Whole Foods.
One necessary aspect of Facebook Graph Search is knowing how to look up the Facebook ID number for the entity or characteristic you are searching. For example, the query to find people who have worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium— www.facebook.com/search/5835757481/employees/ever—requires the Facebook ID for the aquarium, in this case 5835757481. To find any posts in which I’m tagged— www.facebook.com/search/880025163/stories-tagged—you’ll need to know my Facebook ID, 880025163. Looking up a Facebook ID is easy, but takes a couple of steps. And note that it’s different for individuals and everything else.
For an individual, hover your mouse over their profile photo, right click, and select “Copy link address”. Paste the link into a word processor or text editor and look for the string of numbers at the end that are preceded by “referrer_profile_id=”. For example, if you do this for my Facebook profile, you’ll see that the copied URL is https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156259688965164&set=a.10150304678200164&type=3&source=11&referrer_profile_id=88002516
3, so you know that my Facebook ID is 880025163.
For an organization, location, group or other page, copy the link address from the profile photo as above. When you view the copied URL, you will just see two series of numbers, such as www.facebook.com/1824939551131194/photos/10104320439556346/. The Facebook ID is the first set of numbers, in this case 1824939551131194.
Try this out and let me know what kinds of searches have been effective for you. You may have to experiment before you find the right way to compose your query, but I guarantee you’ll find people and pages you couldn’t have located by a regular Facebook search.