Searching Social Media

So an interesting question came up and I learned something. And maybe you can help.

How do you search social media?

Hashtags were added by users – and later adopted by the companies, and have been a growing thing. From their start on Twitter, you can now see and use them on Google+, Tumblr, Facebook, and other places. And of course, there’s the tags on blogs and other things that are user-generated attempts at keywords and searchability. However, even if we assume that what you are looking for are posts where users are self-defining their content – say, with the upcoming Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle this weekend (#eccc) – how do you best search these things?

So with the question came this link, so I can’t say I found it myself: They don’t necessarily have all the answers, but they did post the important question: Twitter only has the last 10 days searchable! Living in a 140-character world may be bad, but living in a world with a ten-day life-span? That’s really rough. 


Twitter isn’t easily archived and searchable?

Screenshot from the Wayback Machine

Screenshot from the Wayback Machine

Nope, it looks like not. And that’s like a lot of social media – it’s blocked off behind passwords, membership, and privacy. As a private individual, that’s great. If I’m a brand hoping my public page can be easily found, or my trending hashtag can be searched… that’s a different problem.

Let’s think bigger, as well… some major world events lately have turned to social media to get the word out. Uprisings in Egypt, for instance, or more recently, events in the Ukraine. Finding this information is hard, and for a researcher in five years? Researching these sorts of things may be impossible.

Much of the problem is the quantity of data being generated… millions of users who, if they post one thing a day, is still millions of posts a day. On each social media site. Do you also archive, or search, comments? Reblogs? All of the activity on the post? I can see the problems. And so have others… they’re trying to make a way to do it.

Social Media Search Engines

So it looks like some specific Social Media related Search Engines have sprung up. Several are mentioned in the Cornell Library guide, but I found a few others, and there are other blog posts out there on the subject – I found this one pretty helpful. On many of them, I find that sadly, an advanced Google Search is one of the best methods – limiting to a specific site, for instance. If you just search a hashtag on Google, you tend to get link to the various social media sites and their individual sites – not necessarily results.

If that’s not enough for you, then you want a social media search engine like Social Searcher. While this seems to mainly only search Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, it has an interesting three-column results from these three, and then lots of search limiting options.

Or there’s a site like Social Mention, which sure sounds powerful, but the number of results I seem to get with it is a bit odd. However, this one is exciting because it has an honest-to-goodness advanced search you can use to limit what sorts of sites you are looking at, limit terms, exclude users, and other things. Not bad, not bad. But not great. I get back searches that talk about hundreds of results – from out of millions of tweets?

The problem is, I doubt these search engines are actually archiving the information either – they’re just searching what’s readily available, or recent, and are basically just skimming the top of the deep sea of social media.

Any suggestions?

How do you search social media? Do you search social media? If you wanted to go back and find that hilarious post – where would you start? Let me know in the comments below!



About CompGeeksDavid
Co-founder, editor, podcaster, web comicer, forum moderator, and writer for Comparative Geeks. Father, husband, geek, nerd, gamer, librarian, Christian, Libertarian, Science Fiction philosopher, and probably a number of other descriptors.

3 Responses to Searching Social Media

  1. Alex Hurst says:

    I usually go straight to Google. You can search a hashtag, or a topic + (social media site you want), and it’s pretty reliable. I can see why Twitter doesn’t archive past ten days. The site is meant to be breaking, current stuff, and deeper archives open the door to link rot and no longer “relevant” information. If you want to keep your hashtags alive, you have to keep using them, or repeating your posts, over and over (please don’t, haha!)


    • I can see why they don’t too, and from the standpoint of use, it works.

      However, for doing research, it’s largely useless. I mentioned someone maybe wanting to research the use of social media during a large political uprising or movement. Outside of that ten-day window, how reliable will any sources you find be? And research tends not to happen “in the moment,” but instead after the moment has passed, and you know what the results are.

      But thinking of your comment about keeping hashtags alive got me thinking… what about business research? Wanting to look back and study how social media is used to grow and promote a brand. This sort of research would only make sense once you have results – say, quarterly or annual earnings. If you are that business, do you collect all the data you can from social media at the time, to study later? And if you’re another business, or a business university, how do you go back and look at how this is all working?

      And without that sort of research, how does someone like Twitter prove that it has an impact, that using it has any sort of value? They talk about someone having a potential “reach” because of social media followers, but how many people actually see – and read, or follow links out – from those sorts of posts? Because it has to happen in the moment, it’s not coming from search engines or non-followers!

      Sorry, the problems around searching social media just boggle my mind!


  2. Gene'O says:

    Just thinking about this. I don’t do a lot of social media searching. I discovered the Twitter thing the hard way – looking for one of my own Tweets. I tend to use Google when I’m looking for specific information, and search sites directly when I’m looking for something from their archives.

    Twitter not archiving tweets doesn’t really bother me, because I see very little on Twitter that I’d want to come back for later, and the things that do fall into that category tend to be links or images, which are easily saved.

    Paywalls are another matter entirely. I hate sites that make content available for a short time and then move it behind a paywall.

    This is one of the reasons I write about my planning and my progress building a social media presence for our blogs. I want that information handy, in my own archives, so I can look at it a year later.

    Actually, I stopped by to ask how your foray into Tumblr is going and whether or not y’all decided to do A to Z with CompGeeks.


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