The internet has made it frighteningly easy to find people online, but the less information you have, the more complicated it becomes. The following suggestions will help you find anyone with an online presence.
You may only have a small amount of information when you start your search. However, as you continue through the process, you should be able to add small pieces of information until you have collected enough data to locate the person.
As with almost everything online, most searches start with Google. Take whatever information you have and plug it all into a search query. Remember, when using Google, you can put parentheses around part of your query, and Google will only return results that contain the phrase you want.
Let’s use an example of an old high school friend named John Smith. You know he once lived in Dallas, Texas, but you do not know where he lives now. The first Google search would be “John Smith Dallas Texas.” That will still return almost two thousand results, but without the parenthesis, it will return almost 96 million results.
Though Google does an excellent job of showing the most relevant results first, without parenthesis, you would end up with every result Google has with any of the words John, Smith, Dallas, and Texas. The parenthesis narrows it down to search results that contain all four of those words.
If you have further information, like the school you both went to and the year you graduated, you would then plug that into the query as well. Once you have all the information you have in a search query, it is time to start sifting through results. Do not forget that Google also stores hundreds of millions of photos, so you can also click “images’ below the search bar to see which images most closely match your query.
Harness the power of social media
Gather any information you might find on Google to add to the information you may already have. Now it is time to turn to the power of social media. You and this person may have mutual friends on Facebook. Type in their name and the first results should be people that have mutual friends with you. Facebook also has several features that help you search for more than just a profile by name. You can sort the results by posts made by friends, in groups, or location tags.
If you do not find them on Facebook, there could be numerous reasons. Maybe the name is common or you do not share any mutual friends. If you think you have found them, but their privacy settings only let friends see their profile, you can still see the profile pic. Screenshot the profile picture.
Once you have the picture, cropped to show just the face, use Google’s reverse image search. Many people use the same photo across multiple platforms, so the picture may lead you to a LinkedIn profile, twitter account, or other social media.
Visit any of the social media sites indicated by the reverse image site and see if you can find their profile. Once you have located social media profiles, you can reach out with a friend request if this is someone you want to connect with.
What to do if you don’t have a person’s last name
There are many instances where you may not have a person’s last name, or they changed their last name. If you have a picture of the person, the reverse image search may help you locate the last name. You can still type everything you do know into a search query, again, with parenthesis around information that you know is correct.
For instance, you met John one night in Dallas, Texas at a bar. Now you would like to try to look John up on the internet. You do not know John’s last name, or even if he is from Dallas, Texas. Your search will be more tedious, but still possible. This time, your search query would start with the information you know for sure in parenthesis, “John” Dallas Texas. If that does not result in a hit or a photo, then take a chance that John does live in Dallas Texas. Do another search of “John Dallas Texas,” and see if that produces any usable hits.
The same principle works on social media, especially if you know or suspect you have mutual friends. If you know John and your friend, Joe, are friends, then go to Joe’s Facebook page and look for John on his list of friends.
Your goal is to find someone with limited information. The more you search, the more information you will be able to add to what you have. The more information you have, the greater your chances of successfully finding the person you are searching for.
If you have John’s email address or phone number, you can search for either via Google. Typing in just a phone number will often result in a full name and a physical address.
Whatever your goal is in finding a person online, persistence and wise use of the simple tools offered by search engines and social media make it possible. Remember, some information may be out-of-date, but you can use even the out-of-date information to continue to find info about the person you are seeking.