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Credit: Image by owenwbrown on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Facebook has announced an expansion to their Graph Search function which means users can now search for status updates, comments and photo captions.

This could open up new opportunities to journalists on how to use the platform in a range of different situations, as Malachy Browne, news editor of Storyful, and Felicity Morse, social media editor at the Independent and i newspaper, explain.

Breaking news

The potential for searching posts and statuses regarding a breaking news event could be useful for journalists in finding sources and eye-witnesses, Morse told Journalism.co.uk

"I think everything on social media is most important for breaking news," she said, "because with a lot of these things you want to talk to people directly involved.

"If they're posting it straight away then journalists will want to get in touch and speak to them."

With more than 1 billion people on Facebook, the potential for searching keywords around a breaking news event that have been geotagged could quickly give journalists the inside track on finding sources.

Browne told Journalism.co.uk that the updated graph search could be used to gather local information around a story and cross-reference pictures and reports.

"If you're searching posts and comments then you get local search terms, people describing things in acronyms or the names of buildings, or street corners or local slang for a particular place where something might be happening."

Learning local terms and phrases for events can help to expand on the search terms you can use to get information on a particular event by using them on other mediums or networks, said Browne.

Historic stories

"From a journalism point of view you can often scroll back and find the first eye-witnesses of an event," said Browne, "and you get quite close to a story the further back you can search.

"Because you're searching posts and comments and images now it's expanding what it's returning in the search."

Reaction to events

Being able to search public statuses, posts or comments, can help journalists gauge and gather public reaction to events.

"The main thing is that not only does Facebook have a lot more people than Twitter, but on Facebook you can put longer posts," said Morse. "So you're more likely to publish a substantial opinion on Facebook compared to a soundbite on Twitter."

If this approach is adopted it has the potential to change how journalists use Facebook in the future, Morse added, as members of the public can make posts public in an attempt to get noticed and have their voices heard.

Audience engagement

"Potentially it'll be interesting to see what people are saying around a publication," said Morse, as searching through posts can give direct feedback to what Facebook users have to say about a publication or a particular story.

When this is combined with the recent introduction of hashtags to the social network it could double up on how journalists can search for and cross-reference different topics to gauge audience engagement and opinion.

"If people start using [hashtags] in their public status updates and posts potentially it can be a useful way of searching," said Morse.

For users keen to keep their posts and other information private from graph searches there is more information here. The Graph Search function is currently only available to users with their language on the social network set as 'English (US)'.

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