How Should Sourcers Use Facebook in a Post-Graph World? by @RandyBailey

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Sep 2, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Last week I wrote a post about Radaris and Pipl. When I finished, I realized that using these tools became more important and necessary after Facebook removed the functionality I liked the best from Graph Search. Yet, Facebook can still be hugely important for sourcing as a cross-referencing and verification tool.

Facebook Graph Search was valuable because it let you easily find the right individual by searching with 2 or 3 pieces of the information we already knew about a person. What stopped working, and was arguably the most valuable, was the ability to use proximity words with a search (ie “People named Barack Obama with friends that went to Harvard” (In the case of an individual not having their school on their profile, most likely one of their friends will) or “that works at the White House” (again, inevitably one of their friends will have this information), “that live in Washington DC” or “that grew up in Hawaii”, etc.) This is where Pipl can get us started, albeit not as efficiently. Pipl will frequently find an individual’s Facebook profile directly or make a guess showing you a few profiles, one of which is often right.

How do I verify I have the right person? As stated, that is the hardest part in the post-graph world! No matter how unique you think the name is, you will inevitably find many others with the same name. The challenge is figuring out which person is the one you are trying to find. When trying to decide, I first look to see if the basic information lines up. The information I try to verify includes:

  • Where they went to school
  • Work history
  • Their photo – does it appear to be the same person (this is harder than you’d think!)
  • Do they live in the same city?
  • Did they grow up in the same city?

Generally speaking, I try to line up a handful of these data points before making an educated guess. I then try to see if I can view their friends, a surprising majority of people do allow this. I’ll also look to see if they’re members of any groups, both friends and group data can be quite insightful. For example, if there are friends who went to the same school, work for the same company, or live in the same city, then there’s a good chance you’ve got the right person.

There’s an additional value to being able to see a person’s friends on Facebook. You can often find other possibilities for the role you’re trying to fill. If you’re looking for someone from a specific company or educational background, most likely people they know from that school or company will also have a similar background. Certainly they’ll have friends that aren’t, but it’s definitely worth a look, and how much time does it take to cross reference back to LinkedIn?

Word of warning: This may not be enough! On more than one occasion I have seen the same name, same school, same company, and even working in the same field, but when I looked at their photos, realized they were clearly two different people.

When this happens, or I just can’t seem to find the right individual, it’s time to get even more creative! Here are a few of my techniques:

  • Find family members or friends (more on this in a bit…)
  • Extract phone numbers and cross reference them with Truecaller, Pipl, and Facebook (when their phone number is registered with Facebook, it will bring up the associated profile!)
  • Check other social sites for additional profiles (glean other usernames, any overlap with friends)

Family search: Not only do I try to see if their profiles on multiple social media sites have the same friends, but I use Pipl and Radaris to also look up known or confirmed family members or friends. Sometimes the family member’s security settings won’t be set as strictly, and you might see that they’re friends with your person. Or, if these family members live or lived in similar locations and connected with other member’s names you’ve uncovered, that would be a huge coincidence and chances are you’ve found your person.

Just like Facebook can be used to verify the right profile, you can also sometimes find more addresses that can then be cross-referenced with Melissadata. Often times Radaris & Pipl will just tell you the city & state, or sometimes they’ll give you the street, without the number. By looking up family members profiles, you may fill in that missing information and allow you to then be able to cross reference a couple more addresses. (If you’re interested in Melissadata, I wrote a previous blog about it).

This is certainly a lot to digest, so if you have any questions or better ideas, please let me know in the comments section below…

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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