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How to... use search engines effectively

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Real-time and social search

By now, social search engines – which search across the social Web – are well established. People search engines are a particularly interesting development especially for potential recruiters or those involved in relationship management.

Two useful people search sites are and . Both sites give a large amount of information:

  • social network sites,
  • web pages,
  • documents,
  • blog mentions,
  • photos.

123people organizes things so that all links appear on one page, whereas kgbpeople has a tabbed structure with tabs at the top of the page linking to social networks, search engines (where results are shown against the individual search engine), photos/video/audio, and personal.

No one doing a serious search can avoid the blogosphere, and there are a number of ways of searching blogs. Google provides the option of limiting search results by media type (including blogs – see menu in top left hand corner).

searches forums, and searches over the Web, the blogosphere, Twitter, MySpace, news, images and BigBuzz, with blogs the default option. It received the thumbs up from Phil Bradley (Bradley, 2009), who commends it for its value in providing a quick overview of social media, pulling everything into one place.

However, the most exciting development with search engines is the ability to search in "real time", i.e. the present moment, so that you can find out what people are talking about now.

What distinguishes a real-time search engine is that it continues to search after results are revealed, so that items continue to drop into your results page. Examples include , (now defunct), and .

Twitter is a particularly good way of searching for up to the minute content and there are a number of Twitter search engines. works by instant indexing: whereas tradition search engines search archived content, Twitter enters updates into its database as soon as they are tweeted. It also has some useful advanced search options: you can search within a date range, to and from a particular person, and specifically for links.

The only drawback to Twitter Search is that it only searches within Twitter's time range. , however, enables you to search beyond Twitter's ten-day history, or in particular friends' accounts. There are many other Twitter search engines: see the article "50+ ways to search Twitter" (Peters, 2010).