The volume of content on social media is staggering. Every day, users post more than 500 million tweets and over a billion stories on Meta’s various apps. And yet, many of us have no strategy for our social media searches.
If you just let the algorithm dictate what you see, you’re barely skimming the surface of that vast content ocean. Getting better at social search will save you time and allow you to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Below, we share some tips and tools for improving your search tactics, so you can search smarter, not harder.
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.
There are tons of reasons to master social search — it’s not just about saving time. It also opens up a new world of content you can use to refine and improve your own business strategies.
Here are a few reasons you might want to level up your search techniques:
- Find business contacts. Looking for the right person to reach out to at a company? Company websites often have minimal information and direct you to a generic contact form. A tailored social search can help you identify who to contact, so you can personalize your query or reach out directly.
- Get inspiration. Social media moves fast. If you want your content and campaigns to stand out, you need to post what audiences want to see today — not what they were into six months ago. Refining your social search techniques will help you stay current.
- Curate content. Looking for great user-generated content for your feed? Planning a seasonal campaign? Planning a seasonal campaign? Smart social search techniques can help you find and curate content that will stand out to your audience.
- Tune into important conversations. Understanding how people talk about your brand on social media is essential. Social listening can give you a goldmine of actionable data.
- Analyze the competition. Want to stay ahead of the game? Then you need to understand what the competition is doing. A social media competitive analysis relies on the insights you’ll find through social searching.
Searching across each individual platform can get confusing fast. Hootsuite Streams display content from all the social media accounts you’ve connected to your account. This allows you to manage many searches in one place — instead of having a million open tabs.
Rather than viewing a single feed, as you would in the app, you can create customized boards and organize your streams within them.
There are endless ways to set up your Streams. For instance, you can use an Instagram board to set up streams monitoring your home feed, specific hashtags, mentions, and competitor accounts. You can also create boards for specific campaigns to track engagement.
Our personal favorite way to use Streams? Set up a Twitter Advanced Search stream that allows you to use Boolean search operators (more on those below) to refine your search.
Streams allow you to keep track of important social media searches in a single place. Plus, Streams organize content chronologically, not according to the social media platform’s algorithm. This makes it easier to see at a glance what posts are new.
You can even filter content within your Streams to streamline your search activities. If you’re monitoring a popular hashtag, you can add keyword filters or limit results based on follower count.
Hootsuite also integrates with powerful third-party apps like TalkWalker. This app uses AI technology to curate personalized search results for your business.
Native search tools
Searching directly within the social media apps themselves can yield mixed results. Here are a few tips for searching in specific platforms:
Facebook allows you to refine your keyword search using their filter options.
First, you can refine your search by type (People, Videos, Posts, etc) and then add additional limitations. For instance, if you are searching for videos, the Date Posted filter is limited to Today, This Week, or This Month. If you want more granular options, it’s best to use Google advanced search tips (scroll down!).
According to Instagram, search results are influenced by popularity and your account activity. This can make it tricky to drill down into a topic, since the algorithm is influencing what you see.
You can use filters to limit search results to places, accounts, or hashtags, but you’re limited to the search term you use. For instance, searching “cats” and filtering by location only lets you see nearby places with the word “cat” in their name.
TikTok has invested in a highly personalized algorithm that serves users an endless feed of content. Searching is a secondary method of exploration. You can search for usernames, keywords and hashtags, alone or in combination.
Enter your keyword, then use the filters on the results page to limit your search by Top, Latest, People, Photos, or Videos.
For example, searching for a business name and filtering results by people is a great way to find out who works there. Twitter search also supports Boolean operators (more on these below) so you can refine your search by location, tweet content, date and more.
LinkedIn has sophisticated advanced search options built into the platform. Start by entering your query in the search bar. Then refine the results by clicking “All Filters.” You can limit results by location, employer, language, school, and more.
Here are some more tips for navigating LinkedIn search.
Google advanced search
Boolean searches, named after mathematician George Boole, use logic and specific operators (like AND, OR and NOT) to refine search results. Ahrefs has a comprehensive list of search operators that you can use on Google.
For instance, say you want to find posts about vampires but not about the excellent TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In that case, you could search vampire -buffy. The minus sign indicates that the search will omit any results containing the word “Buffy.”
Here are a few ways you can use Google advanced search to find social media content:
- Search Instagram for specific images or videos. Searching site:instagram.com [corgi] AND [new york] will return posts that include both search terms from the platform. You can limit the results by images or videos by clicking the filters below the search bar.
- Find social profiles for partnerships. If you have an influencer in mind for a campaign but are unsure if they’re on the platforms you’re looking for, you can search to see their profiles. Enter [influencer name] (site:instagram.com | site:facebook.com | site:tiktok.com) to find their profile on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook.
- Find positive sentiments. Want to find people who are posting positive content about your brand? Add keywords like love, favorite or best to your search. For instance, searching site:instagram.com [YOUR BRAND +love] will generate Instagram posts from people who love your company.
- Search specific dates. Social media platforms prioritize recent and trending content, which can be challenging. Google allows you to search social media platforms for specific time periods. For example, enter site:instagram.com [BRAND NAME] after:2021-12-01 before:2021-12-31 to find posts about your brand from December 2021.
For Twitter and LinkedIn, you can actually use Boolean search operators directly in the platform. Twitter has a helpful summary of search operators to refine your results.
SEMrush’s Social Media Tracker
SEMrush’s Social Media Tracker is a tool for benchmarking your social results against your competitors. It allows you to track your performance and that of your competitors across multiple social media platforms.
If you’ve been wondering what hashtags to use in your posts, this tool can show you what hashtags the competition is using — and how well they perform. This will give you clear insights into what might work for your own business strategy.
You can also generate Mentioner reports for Twitter, which show you which accounts are talking about you (and your competitors). This can be useful for identifying potential influencer partnerships, and seeing which brands your prospective customers are talking about.
SEMrush’s Social Media Tracker is particularly useful for identifying emerging trends and relevant audiences for your industry, and generating reports on competitor activities.
Create a search schedule
One problem with the firehose of social media content is that it can be overwhelming. Every second, thousands of new posts are being shared! Trending hashtags have the lifecycle of a mayfly! This pace can make you feel like you have to constantly monitor everything that’s happening in case you miss something important.
But presumably, your role involves other responsibilities, and you also need to take a break from your screen now and then. Monitoring your feeds and searches at spaced intervals will help you identify patterns more clearly, rather than alerting you to every fluctuation in engagement.
To avoid losing too much time, set up your search queries in Hootsuite Streams or another tool, then check in on them at specific times. Run regular reports each month to monitor changes.
(Yes, you should be monitoring direct mentions and questions to your brand and responding to them in a timely manner! But you don’t need to review your competitor’s activities three times a day.)
Refresh your keywords
These tips will help you get into a groove with your social media searching, but that doesn’t mean you can put the process on autopilot. You should regularly review and update the search terms, hashtags, and accounts you’re monitoring. This includes adding:
- New brands and competitors in your industry
- Emerging hashtags
- Locations that your business is targeting
- Leaders within your company or industry
- Relevant topics that trend seasonally
Refreshing your search queries once per month should keep your search results relevant and focused.
Follow your audience
Each brand has its own audience, and each audience has its favorite social media networks. If you’re targeting Gen Z, you’re more likely to find them on TikTok than anywhere else. If you want to reach women, they’re less likely to be on Twitter.
Understanding who you’re trying to reach will also tell you where to search. Before you start setting up your social media searches, spend some time defining your target market. This will help you figure out where you want to focus your resources.
Check the vibe
Different apps can have very different sentiments. For example, users often take to Twitter with brand complaints and questions. But on their curated Instagram feeds, they’ll post products they really love.
When you’re searching on a social platform, it’s important to consider what kind of conversations typically happen there. You should also consider how your audience is using that platform. This is where it can also be helpful to take a look at your competitors and see how your mentions and conversations compare.
This is also a reminder to engage in social listening across all relevant platforms to ensure you’re getting the full picture.
After setting up your initial social media searches, you can start to hone in on the most important topics and conversations.
You might find, for instance, that a trending hashtag doesn’t produce many relevant posts. Rather than removing it, you can add another search term to narrow down the results.
You might also find that your company name or keyword commonly gets mentioned in unrelated conversations. This is where it can be helpful to add a search operator that omits all searches with a word you’re not interested in.
And if you’re only focusing on customers in the United States, you might want to limit the geography of your search results to relevant regions. This will ensure your feeds aren’t cluttered with unhelpful results. Refining your social media searches is all about moving the needle from “quantity” to “quality.” That way, you can focus on applying those insights rather than hunting for them.
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