Several tools help with figuring out where a person or organization lives in the rapidly changing world of social media. Often, you can find what they’re posting in these ways:
Email searches– User names and profiles on social media sites often are a derivation of someone’s real name. In many cases, there’s nothing remotely similar. That’s where an email search can be useful in tracking someone’s online activity.
You can use typical search engines such as Google and Bing, but a more sophisticated tool such as Pipl can return better results. Pipl specializes in searching the Deep Web: areas of the Internet not typically probed by other search engines. Search using emails, names or even phone numbers. By the way, it’s worth trying those searches on Google, too. Different search engines return varying results. Other Deep Web search engines worth exploring: 123people, PeekYou, Snitch, SamePoint and WhosTalkin.
KnowEm –This service searches user names across more than 575 popular and emerging social media sites. Search different variations of a person’s name. Use the name with a space, then search again without a space. Different accounts have different protocols for user names. If the service shows that the user name is not available, the person you’re backgrounding may have the account. KnowEm reminds you to search older services such as MySpace, along with social media sites that may be new to you.
Social Mention – This service lets you can search a name across dozens of social media sites for current information, postings and links. Like many search engines, Social Mention enables you to filter for specific social media sites by clicking on this link below the search window: “or select social media sources.” As with most search engines, results improve if you put quotation marks around the name.
Topsy – Go directly to the advanced search for more options: key words, a specific Twitter handle, date ranges and other refinements. After you run the search, you can filter the results by time (such as the past hour, especially helpful during breaking news) and type of information (everything, links, tweets, photos, videos or experts).
Track This Now – With this search tool, you can tap into social media postings in real time during breaking news. Filters give you options to look for “the best sources,” “live updates” and “tweets from other countries.”
Twazzup – Similar to Track This Now, Twazzup offers real-time results of key words or topics. In addition, it offers related Twitter hash tags, related search terms and the most active social media users on that topic. It’s ideal for breaking news, as a way to monitor many social media services and news updates simultaneously.
Ban.jo – While this service works on a computer, it’s designed for smart phones. Type in any address or city name. In real time, you’ll see who is updating social media near that location on services including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google+ and Instagram. This is a powerful tool for finding sources on the scene of a news event or someone who lives near a location that’s important for your story. You can search for results from everyone, or filter for your personal friends and connections on those services.
Geofeedia – In beta, this product has incredible potential to use specific geography searches to find sources and social media updates in real time. An address or city search pulls nearby updates, photos and videos posted on Flickr, Instagram, Picasa, Twitter and YouTube. You can filter your results using key words, or search any combination of the five social media services. Results can be displayed on a map (which you can redraw with a different boundary for searching) or on a collage page (which is nice for quick scanning of images and posts to find relevant material). In addition, you can save searches for easy monitoring of multiple locations. The waiting list may be two weeks for a trial account; sign up here to test the product.
Foursquare – Another location-based service, Foursquare can be useful for more than finding friends at restaurants and concerts. Reporters have used Foursquare, for instance, to find people shopping at a mall where a shooting occurred. In addition, if you need to find someone who knows a lot about a specific location, search for nearby businesses and connect with the “mayor” of each place. The “mayor” is the person who has checked in most often on Foursquare. Often, users link their Foursquare account to their Facebook or Twitter accounts, making it possible to contact potential sources.
→ Next section: FACEBOOK