How Does Facebook People Search Work?

Posted on by Ben Hartwig in SecurityDecember 26, 2019

Social media platforms are great for finding long lost friends or family in far-flung places, but how they work remains a mystery for many people.

The People Search feature on Facebook works like any other search engine – it retrieves results based on the keywords used. Facebook uses an algorithm much like Google’s, but only to search and retrieve user-generated data within its platform. What you do off of Facebook has no bearing on the search results you’ll get.

There are several variables at play that influence the search results and what content will be available for discovery. Here are the activities on the platform that affects search results:

  • Your previous search history
  • The pages you follow.
  • The groups you’ve joined.
  • Other people’s activity on Facebook.
  • Any events you’ve followed or liked.
  • Your tagged places.
  • Anything shared with you by your friends.
  • Your News Feed interactions.
  • The information listed on your profile.

Community and user activity play a role in ranking search results in a Facebook search. Recent posts and the popularity of the subject also factors that can affect search outcomes.

6 Ways to Find People on Facebook

There are several ways you can use Facebook’s People Search feature to track down someone.

1. Search for the Person’s Name

This method is pretty straightforward and uses the main search bar located at the top of the website to enter a person’s name. Type a name and use the available filters to narrow down your results. However, Facebook often autocompletes anything you type in the search box, so you may end up in a friend’s timeline if their first names are the same.

Here are a few important reminders to get the most out of Facebook’s People search:

  • Always select “People” at the top to tell the search algorithm you’re only searching for people. Otherwise, your results will be a hodgepodge of events, pages, businesses, and other content, which can be annoying.
  • On your left, other filters can give you more relevant results. For instance, select “Education” to search for former classmates or “Work” if you’re looking for a coworker.
  • You can locate a person even if you have no friends or any other associations. You can select “Choose a Company” school or city to go through profiles that may fit the description of the person you’re looking for.

2. Go Through Mutual Friends

You can use your Facebook friends to find people on the platform. This method will only work if your friend has any ties with the person you’re trying to find. For instance, if you’re trying to locate someone you went to college with, you can check the friend’s list of your buddies who went to the same school for any mutual friends.

Here’s how to do this:

  • Go to a friend’s profile and click the “Friends” tab to view all his/her friend list. You can narrow your search to groups such as school, hometown, or workplace.
  • You can browse the “People You May Know” page that lists people connected to your friends.
  • Use the “Friends of Friends” filter if the first two don’t pan out.

Even if you don’t know the name of the person you’re searching for, you can still use Facebook search. All you need to know the name of the past or current school the person goes to. To do this method, search for the school and choose “People” to filter the results. You’ll see Facebook users who list the school on their profile.

4. Find Someone in Public Groups

If you know what topics the person you’re looking for has interest in, you can use Facebook Groups for your search. Navigate to the top of the page and select “Groups” from the menu. Once you find the group’s page, open the Members tab, and use the search bar. Please note that you’re only able to see members on Public Groups, as closed groups require you to be a member.

5. Use Facebook to Track Down Other Information Online

You can also use Facebook to search for someone’s online presence. Only do this if you already have the person’s Facebook information, but want to learn about his/her other social media account details. You can check if a person also has Instagram, Twitter, or an online dating profile.

Here’s how to do it:

  • All Facebook profiles have unique usernames located at the end of the URL. Take note of it, go to Google to check if the person has any other accounts. You can also use a standalone username search tool for this task.
  • You can also do a reverse image search on a picture from the person’s Facebook profile. It can be their profile pic or any image they posted on their account. If he/she posted the same photo anywhere else online, you might be able to trace it back to other social networking accounts. Google does this task pretty well.

6. Search Using a Phone Number

If you’re trying to track down the owner of a phone number that keeps calling, you can use Facebook for a reverse number search. All you need to do is type the number in the search bar and see what comes up. However, the chances of catching a person’s phone number on public posts are slim. If you’re searching for an old buddy’s phone number, this method can dig up past posts that can help.

The Bottom Line: You Can Find Anyone on Facebook

Facebook has 2.45 billion users, and the chances of finding someone are high as long as the person has a profile. The social networking giant lets users add all sorts of personal information about themselves to their profile.

You can leverage Facebook’s People Search to find anybody – from an old friend, former colleague, or long-lost family. However, there are some instances when the person you’re looking for isn’t on Facebook or any social networking site. In this case, using a dedicated people search engine can help you find someone, even if you have limited details about the person. 

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