Advanced Search Tips for Finding Prospects on Social Media

In my role as a development analyst, many of my clients are related to the healthcare sciences. For this reason, I often search for new prospects based on areas of interest, such as diabetes or cancer research. Plenty of tools exist that can help with this task, but I’ve found that social media is especially useful for finding individuals who are interested in specific topics (plus it’s free!).

I briefly mentioned this tactic in my last post (“9 Creative Ways to Find New Prospects”), but today, I’m going to dive deeper into how to use the advanced search functions on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to discover new prospects by affinity.


To the right of the search box on LinkedIn, you’ll find the advanced search link.


Clicking on this link will bring you to the “Advanced People Search” module. There are two ways to use the advanced search to find new people:

Do a quick, general search on your topic. Simply enter the topic into the “Keywords” box on the left, and narrow the location to the city in which you are looking for new prospects. For example, if I search for “diabetes” in “Seattle,” I get 4,978 results. All of these people are located in the Greater Seattle Area and either have a stated interest in diabetes or hold a position (or work at a company) with the word “diabetes” in the title.

Do a more specific search. For example, if I only want people who attended Harvard University, live in Seattle, and are interested in diabetes, I would use the same criteria as the first search, but also enter “Harvard University” in the “School” box. This search would net me 15 results—much more manageable than the original search. You can also narrow it down by industry, current company, past company, nonprofit interests (whether the prospect is interested in volunteering or serving on a board), and relationship to you (first degree connection, second degree connection, etc.).

If you have a premium LinkedIn account, you can also filter by LinkedIn groups, years of experience in a particular field, seniority level, specific interests, company size, and when the prospect joined LinkedIn.


Facebook’s search engine is also a powerful tool for identifying prospects based on interest areas. Try out these easy searches:

To recreate that first LinkedIn search on Facebook, type “diabetes” and “Seattle” into the search box at the top of the page and hit enter.


You’ll be taken to a page where you can see the top and latest posts on this topic; people whose profiles contain these keywords; photos and videos with captions containing those these keywords; and pages, places, and groups with those these keywords in the titles or descriptions. In this case, I was able to locate three individuals under the “People” heading.

Another way to conduct an advanced search on Facebook is to click on the friend requests icon at the top of the page. (It looks like the silhouettes of two people.) When the request box opens, click on “Find Friends.”


Along the right-hand side of the page, you’ll see the “Search for Friends” advanced search. Here, you can search by name, hometown, current city, high school, the name of a mutual friend, the college or university the individual attended, employer, and graduate school attended.

Although you cannot search by keyword, you can look for individuals who live in Seattle and who work at organizations with “diabetes” in the name. The only caveat is that you have to select an organization in the organization search box (i.e., you can’t just search all organizations simultaneously with “diabetes” in the name). So, if there are multiple organizations with “diabetes” in the title, you’ll have to do separate searches for each organization.


Twitter’s advanced search offers search options that are similar to those found on Google. Once you land on the page, you can search for particular words, people, hashtags, places, and dates. Here are a few search combinations that might be helpful:

For our example search, I will put “diabetes” and “Seattle” in the “All of these words” box.


This search will yield hundreds of tweets that contain both of these words. Much like on Facebook, you can filter by a couple of different choices at the top of the page: top tweets, live tweets, accounts with these words in the description, photos and videos with these words in the captions, and news containing these words.

You can also narrow the tweets down by the people who posted them (everyone or just people you follow) and where the posts originated (everywhere or near you). By clicking on the “Accounts” heading, I was able to find three Twitter accounts located in Seattle that are related to diabetes: a doctor, a trainer who specializes in training diabetic alert dogs, and the Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute.

Alternately, on the main advanced search page, I could have entered “diabetes” in the keyword box and then set the location to Seattle.


This search brings up almost 40 results of Seattle-based accounts that contain the word “diabetes” in the description.

Regardless of your topic, using one or all of these search options is likely to provide you with new and varied prospects for your organization and cause. The above information is just a glimpse into how you can use social media search capabilities to your advantage. I’d love to hear any tips and tricks that you have found useful!

Download our whitepaper “Donor Identification in the 21st Century” for more pro-tips on using social media to identify prospects.

Emily Davis began as a research associate at the Indiana University Foundation and was promoted to development analyst in 2011. In addition to assisting her science- and health-related clients with research, she has completed research for the IU and IU Foundation presidents as well as on international prospects. She received her undergraduate degrees from Ball State University and her master’s degree from Indiana University Bloomington. In her free time, she enjoys completing freelance editing and formatting work when not watching Thomas the Train with her toddler.

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