Despite recent improvements, Facebook's in-site search doesn't necessarily offer the best way to see such data. However, there are various services that provide a dedicated way to either search Facebook's 500 million-strong data stream (at least what's made public), or see what's "trending" on the site in a way that's similar to Twitter.
While we can't overlook the fact that search engines like Google and Bing have begun offering "social search," we think the five services listed below offer a more useful way to find out what people are saying about a particular topic, or even find out what's being "Liked" in your social circle.
Kurrently is a dedicated search engine for both Twitter and Facebook, but you can narrow down the options to see results from one service or the other.
Kurrently's great selling point is that the search results continue to refresh after you've looked up a word or phrase, so you can experience the kind of auto-updating hashtag search we're already familiar with on Twitter.
Kurrently's programmer Gilbert Leung said he started the site because he wanted to get a sense of the global sentiment on a certain issue.
"Twitter Search was the obvious tool at the time," says Leung, "but my immediate question was, What about Facebook?' Why am I searching through a community of around 60 million when a network of around 500 million exists?'"
2. It's Trending
Right now It's Trending offers a non-searchable, real-time feed of the most shared content across Facebook, which is useful for anyone who wants a snapshot glimpse of the social web's current zeitgeist in an incredibly simple and uncomplicated way.
Giving you a new way to see hot topics across categories (video, news, sports, tech, gaming, comedy, etc) and across popular sites (Cracked, YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, TechCrunch, Huffington Post, NY Times, CNN and yes, Mashable) it's a good-looking service that has big plans for the future so definitely one to watch.
While many of you may already be familiar with Openbook, it's worthy of a place on this list for how simple it is to search, or see what others are searching for.
Also worth mentioning for marketeers or researchers is Openbook's unique ability to see search results from just male or female Facebookers something that's an incredibly useful tool if you need to narrow down data on a gender basis.
Recent startup Booshaka offers a real-time look at what's trending on Facebook based on open search keywords, as well as via topic if you're interested in more a general browse.
Main channel topics include news, music, sports, politics, gossip, TV, fashion, movies, deals, travel, brands and games (with each broken down into further sub-topics). Clicking on one of these will give you a stream of updates from relevant accounts.
Once you've carried out a topic search, you can see how many "Likes" and comments a Facebook post has received, and narrow down the results by what's trending now, what's most popular, what's most recent, and what has the biggest "buzz."
These further options could potentially help identify up-and-coming trends, as well as find out what folks are saying about established ones.
Facepinch promises to let you know popular "Likes" (as well as create your own "Like"), view hot trending topics, and see what's being sought after on Facebook with its top 100 most popular searches list. There is also the option to see recent searches if you're more interested in what's happening right now.
While there's no data to be gleaned from it, you can also browse recently updated profile pics with a gallery of random Facebook users' names and thumbnails. The site's default is the U.S., but you can select specific countries if you've an interest in a particular geographical area.
The service's creator, London-based Andrew Webb, states that besides the more obvious voyeuristic uses, he sees value in the site for brands:
"[C]ompanies and marketing professionals [can] see an unfiltered glimpse of how their products are being really perceived by the public."
BONUS: Like Button
More aimed at finding out what's hot in your own social circle, Like Button shows you "what people you know like on the Internet right now."
If you're signed in via Facebook, you can see what your buddies have "Liked" on popular pre-loaded sites such as YouTube, CNN, The Huffington Post, etc, and via categories including news, social media, tech, Apple, etc. But there is the infinitely useful option to add sites of your choosing too, making the Like Button site a personalized social window on the web.
You can also click to view a brief overview of what's hot on Facebook with the nine top trends displayed and refreshed every 15 minutes.
In addition, and on the fun side of things, Like Button lets you create your very own "Like" and "Dislike" buttons, the former of which looks like this when posted to your Facebook wall:
More Facebook Resources from Mashable:
- 10 Fascinating Facebook Facts
- 10 Cool Facebook Status Tips and Tricks
- How News Consumption is Shifting to the Personalized Social News Stream
- How Online Retailers Can Leverage Facebook's Open Graph
- 10 Fun Facebook Accessories
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sodafish
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