The fastest way to search Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I Type 2000 Words A Minute... Uh Yeah
I Type 2000 Words A Minute… Uh Yeah by Bill Shaner licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you write about or follow breaking news in 2015, you need to know how to quickly search social media. Every second counts, especially when have to try many search words or phrases. On a laptop or desktop computer, one of the quickest ways to search Twitter, Facebook or any network is to use Chrome’s address bar.

If you don’t already use Google’s browser, download Chrome now. There, that’s better.

Google calls its address bar the “omnibox,” presumably because it does so much. For example, if you type words into that box and hit Enter, Chrome will bring you to a Google search engine results page. That magic box even works as a basic calculator for the math-challenged reporter.

I’ll show you how you can teach that omnibox to search Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Make Ctrl-L a habit

First, get in the habit of hitting Ctrl-L or ⌘-L (on the Mac) to jump to the omnibox. This is much faster than moving your hand to the trackpad, your cursor to the omnibox, and your fingers back to the keyboard. Try it now. I’ll wait. See?

Force yourself to use that key combination every time you visit a new site. Eventually, it will become second nature.

Manage search engines

To open Chrome’s settings, click on the menu icon menu icon in the upper right corner, then select “settings”. Scroll down to the Search heading and click on the “Manage search engines …” button. If you’re in a rush, this link will open up those settings. You screen should look something like this:

Chrome search engine settings

Scroll all the way down and you’ll see three empty boxes that you can fill in to add a search engine. For the next steps, do not include quotation marks.

  1. Type “Facebook” into the first box.
  2. Type “fb” in the second box.
  3. Type or paste this into the third box: “”
  4. Hit the “Done” button

Test it out

Now go to the omnibox (Ctrl-L) and type fb then press the spacebar or tab key. The box is now waiting for you to type in a phrase or word to search.

Chrome omnibox ready to search Facebook

Try typing in “Las Vegas” and then press return.

Facebook search results for Las Vegas

Note that Facebook’s search for posts is still very limited/customized. You won’t see a huge stream of the public posts sorted with the most recent at top. Instead, you’ll only see some posts, sorted by a secret algorithm.

Twitter and Instagram

Repeat the steps above two times, with these settings for Twitter:

  1. Type “Twitter” into the first box.
  2. Type “tws” in the second box.
  3. Type or paste this into the third box: “”

And these settings for Instagram:

  1. Type “Instagram” into the first box.
  2. Type “ig” in the second box.
  3. Type or paste this into the third box: “”

To search Twitter, hit Ctrl-L, tws, spacebar, your search terms, then return. This is set up to return all results, not just the top ones.

To search Instagram, hit Ctrl-L, ig, spacebar, your search terms, then return. With this one, I’m using Iconosquare, which searches for Instagram users and hashtags, so this isn’t a full text search.

Add other searches

You can follow the process above to add a search engine for most sites that include a search function. It’s a bit of a process.

  1. Visit the site that you want to search and search for anything. For example, I went to Flickr and searched for “vatican city”.
  2. When the results pop up, copy the URL from the address bar. Here is what I copied:
  3. Return to Chrome’s search engine settings, scroll down and add Flickr as a new search engine.
  4. The first box is a name, for your reference. You can call the new search anything you want: Flickr, Photos, Pictures, etc.
  5. The second box is the keyword that you’ll type in the omnibox when you want to use your new search engine. Make sure this is short and memorable. I shoot for 2-3 characters. My keyword for Flickr is fl.
  6. In the third box, paste in the URL that you copied earlier, but replace your search phrase with “%s”. For my Flickr example, you would enter this:

What’s faster for you?

This is the fastest way search for things on the Internet. I’m not talking about topics or keywords that I constantly monitor, but those one-time searches that I constantly make throughout the day. You have your own workflows. How do you quickly search other sites? What works for you? I’m always up for trying new things to shave seconds off of frequent tasks.


2 thoughts on “The fastest way to search Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

  1. This is a great tip! You might be interested in another way to achieve the same result:

    -In Chrome, set your default search engine to DuckDuckGo

    -DuckDuckGo has TONS of built-in search shortcuts similar to the ones described above. For example, if you want to search Facebook, type “!fb”.Twitter = “!tw”. Google maps? “!m”. DuckDuckGo calls these “bangs” and it has literally thousands already set up:

    It’s very similar to the method above, but you don’t have to add every site individually!

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