How to Use Facebook’s Search to Find Anyone or Anything

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When you think of Facebook, search probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. And to be fair, for a long time Facebook’s search function was pretty terrible.

That’s not the case anymore, though. A number of changes in recent years have made Facebook’s search function really easy to use, and quite powerful, all at the same time. Here are a few things you can find quickly with this function, along with some tips to keep in mind.

Search for People

The most obvious use for Facebook’s search functionality is searching for people, so let’s start with that. Just type the name of the person you’re looking for, and you’ll see a list of results:

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Of course, it’s rare to find the exact person you’re looking for on the first try, which is why Facebook lets you use other criteria. For example, you can type someone’s name and city, and Facebook will figure out what you mean.

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You can specify basically any attribute and Facebook will drill down, assuming whoever you’re looking for publicly features that information. For example, you could type someone’s name and:

  • The place they live, or used to live.
  • Someone’s career title, e.g. “Farmer” or “Journalist”.
  • The place they work, or used to work.
  • Any schools they attended in the past, or are currently attending.
  • Any organization the person is affiliated with, including churches or nonprofits.

Include these bits of information and Facebook will try to find people who match all the criteria listed. It does a surprisingly good job of parsing that information.

In some cases, you don’t even need a name. For example, if you work at Jack’s Coffee Shop, you could search for “Jack’s Coffee Shop employees” and scroll through a list of people who’ve publically stated they work there. Or if you have someone’s email address, you could try searching for that to find their Facebook profile.

You can even search for groups of people based on criteria like this. For example “friends in los angeles” will show you all your Facebook friends that live in Los Angeles—perfect for planning all your outings on your next visit.

Search for Specific Posts

Have you ever found yourself trying to find back a specific Facebook post, or conversation, from a few months or even years ago? Facebook’s search can help with that. Just type a few keywords from the conversation into search, then click one of the “Posted By” buttons in the left column.

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In this example I found an important post I wrote a few months ago, but you could use this feature to find all sorts of things. Maybe there’s a picture of your granddaughter, or a specific recipe, that you remember scrolling past but can’t find back. This can help you find those things. You can even click the “Choose a Source” button if you know who precisely posted the thing you’re looking for.

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If this isn’t enough, you also have to option to specify a range of dates, or the physical location the post was made from.

Search for Pages

There are other things you might be searching for on Facebook—pages, for example. If you want to search for the official page for an organization, just type it’s name. The top result will usually be official.

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See that blue checkmark beside the page’s name? That means it’s an official page. If you want to find some unofficial pages to like as well, click the “Pages” tab above the search results.

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This lets you search every page on Facebook, and is a great way to find new public pages worth watching.

Search for The Latest Headlines

Facebook probably isn’t a great place to get your news, but the “Latest” tab will show you a bunch of recent posts related to whatever your search query might be.

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If you want to know what’s happening related to a certain subject, this is a quick way to see conversations about it from all over Facebook.

Clear Your Search History

You might notice, as you start searching, that your entire search history is saved by Facebook for future reference. This can be practical: if you search the same thing a lot, Facebook can give you faster recommendations. But it can also feel somewhat creepy. If you want to clear this out, click the “Edit” button to the right of the search bar.

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This will take you to the search history page, where you’ll find a “Clear History” link.

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Click this and Facebook will delete all of your search history, potentially hiding all sorts of things you shouldn’t have searched for in the first place.

Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.