Image: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography


  • Advanced search on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit to find interviewees, story ideas and for research
  • Tracking people down via their social media accounts

✳️ Facebook Signal

Update: Facebook Signal has closed down, so these links no longer work unfortunately…

This is what the main Facebook Signal dashboard looks like. Please see the Trending section of this guide for more
A Facebook search on “Brussels” on 31 March 2016

✳️ Searching on Facebook itself

Back on the standard Facebook interface, there used to be something called “Graph Search” which allowed you to combine search terms and phrases.

Tools for searching Facebook

Although Facebook Graph search itself no longer works as it used to, there are a couple of really great third-party tools for digging deeper:

Tools for searching Instagram

It used to be impossible to do anything but the most basic search on Instagram, but in late June 2015, Instagram relaunched the “explore” button, adding lots of new functionality.

✳️ Searching on Twitter

When searching on Twitter, if you want to see the most recent tweets, make sure to click on the tab that says “live” across the top on desktop (the default is “top” which shows those with most engagement around them). On mobile, toggle across to “all tweets”.

Finding people/searching Twitter

Please see the organise section of this guide for info on ✳️ Tweetdeck, using lists, Tame, twXplorer and other tools.


I’m a big fan of Buzzsumo, and use it almost like a google search when beginning to research a subject. It’s also great for finding guests/interviewees and experts. Really it’s a tool for marketing, but it has some uses for journalists too.

✳️ LinkedIn

Don’t forget about LinkedIn! It’s one of the fastest-growing social networks, and if you’re a journalist you can get a free 1-year upgrade to a premium account after taking a short web tutorial (repeat it a year later to renew the premium account). The dates for the tutorials are posted on the LinkedIn for Journalists group page. It’s well worth doing as the upgrade otherwise costs $75 a month.

✳️ Reddit

You can search Reddit at

Tracking people down via social

People often use the same usernames, and/or profile pictures on different social media accounts, which can help you gather more info on them.

Free tools

This is exactly what Channel 4 News did to track down the person behind @ShamiWitness, one of the biggest pro-ISIS Twitter accounts, which — it turned out — was run by a young man in Bangalore. They found him by following up on the history of the @ShamiWitness Twitter handle account (which had changed names). That lead them to his Google+ and Facebook accounts. The @ShamiWitness account was shut down as a result of their investigation.

Other useful tools

✳️ International White and Yellow Pages

✳️ More from the Social Media Reporter ✳️

  • How to organise your feeds
  • Locating video, images and sources from a specific location, and the ethics of using eyewitness material
  • Verification. How to spot fakes and scams
  • How to find out what’s trending and dig to the bottom of trends
  • More resources



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Commissioning editor for @bbcideas — short films for curious minds. Via @BBCNewsnight, @JSKStanford, @BBCTrending and more. Wrote