How To Track People Down on Social Media

Social media aficionados often unwittingly reveal personal – and traceable – details online that’s accessible to anyone. While that’s not ideal for those who cherish privacy, it’s a goldmine for journalists. You just have to know the tricks.

Paul Myers, a BBC journalist and expert in social media research, shared a few tips at the first Asian Investigative Journalism Conference in Manila, Philippines. Here are some of the highlights:

Chase the username
Consider this a warm-up exercise for the hunt. If you have the username of a person’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other major social media platform – it’s likely they have used the same username elsewhere. For example, facebook.com/john.doe1900 may also be found on Instagram as instagram.com/john.doe1900, or similar.

Another trick is to input the person’s username or handle into Google, which will roll out a list of websites that have the username.

Searching on LinkedIn
The go-to site for professionals looking to network, LinkedIn, can also be used to find individuals’ contact details. Rarely is a person’s given name unique, so how can one filter out hundreds of identical names to find the person they want? Myers suggested tailoring the search to within one or two countries. He also recommended plugging in the country prefix into Google searches, such as site:ph.linkedin.com (for Philippines) or site:jp.linkedin.com (for Japan), alongside the person’s name to narrow down the search.

Finding an e-mail address
If you know the company a person works for, www.email-format.com finds the email domain used by US-based businesses. Other tools such as Rapportive help guess a person’s email address and MailTester allows you to test e-mail addresses without sending someone an e-mail. 

If you know an individual has a website, you can use www.whois.domaintools.com for leads on that person’s full name, location and e-mail address.

You can also export the e-mail addresses of any Facebook friend – but on Yahoomail only, said Myers. Once you have an email account set up, you can import the contacts of your Facebook friends after giving Yahoo permission to access your Facebook account.

Honing in with Facebook
Facebook graph search has made finding one of its more than 1.35 billion active users easier than ever. You can search for people according to various criteria at once, including names, location, hobbies, interests, employment –even posts or pages they have liked. Just make sure your language is set to US English before getting started, as it’s currently only available for American audiences.

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