Skip to content
Private Investigators Guide to Social Media

A Private Investigator’s Guide to Popular Social Media in 2023

Social media has grown into an immensely popular tool for PIs searching for leads or evidence. It also comes with its own pitfalls, such as the need to avoid catfishing, false pretenses, and similar illegal acts when gathering information. Fortunately, many users still keep plenty of social media information public, so it’s an effective way to pick up clues. That could include where someone was located on a certain date, pictures of a party or date, information about how people are spending their time, and lots more.

So, what social media is worth your time? Are there any risks for using specific platforms? Let’s go through the most common social media apps today, and what they mean for PIs.


Twitter is famous for its brief messages used to communicate the latest news and opinions (as well as its recent purchase by Elon Musk). It’s a helpful platform for staying on top of current events, but can sometimes help with investigations too. If someone is active on Twitter and they have a public profile, they may have tweeted all kinds of personal information, opinions about their company, and so on. However, it’s kind of limited use for tracking people unless private investigators dig down to the metadata.


Facebook profiles allow users to post a wide variety of information, including their locations, geotagged photos that prove where they were, and other data that can prove very useful. The key with Facebook is getting access to someone’s profile, and many users have their info set to private outside of friends. However, PIs have surprising success simply by sending a friend request to the person they are investigating.

Facebook also allows professionals to create business pages. These pages are easily searchable and can be a very effective way for PIs to advertise their services and let clients know more about them. If you haven’t set up a Facebook Business page yet, it can be a good way to grow your business.


LinkedIn can be an effective way of exploring someone’s work history and professional contacts, which can provide important starting points for additional information. However, people tend to stay professional on LinkedIn, and it’s not a place to search for location data, personal opinions, or similar types of information. Of course, LinkedIn may also be useful for private investigators looking for work opportunities, or those who want to join a larger firm in time.


TikTok is a problematic app for private investigators. If someone takes a quick video for their TikTok profile, you have evidence about what they were doing, when, and usually where. But it’s slanted for a younger audience, so there’s limited applications in the average case, and the app is infamous for problems like conspiracy theories and false information.


Instagram’s photo-friendly design means that frequent users are likely to post photos and stories about their location and activities. If private investigators can gain access to a profile, it may be a trove of material about someone’s activities and where they have been.


WhatsApp is one of the most popular texting apps in the world, and allows people to share other content like photos. However, WhatsApp also has plenty of protections, including disappearing messages, encryption for conversations, and more. That means a PI won’t really be able to access WhatsApp data. If it becomes very important, then public law enforcement can put in an official request to review certain WhatsApp records, but a PI won’t be able to handle this on their own.


Snapchat may seem like an odd choice for a private investigator researching someone. The platform grew famous for its “disappearing” messages which generally become inaccessible to users after a certain time. But Snapchat has changed a lot since then. There are Memories that are permanently saved photos and videos, geofilters to track locations, a Snap Map that shows exactly where nearby friends are, and more. If you can get someone to add you to their Snap friends list, you may be able to discover lots about them. However, not many people may use Snapchat so frequently these days, so results may vary.


Unless someone you are investigating is active on Reddit – and that can be difficult to prove unless you have login information from a spouse or someone else – Reddit can be difficult to use for evidence. In some cases, people might cruise certain subreddits to look for illicit meetups or illegal information, but this can take work to uncover, especially if they’re using a burner account. Other subreddits may be helpful in a more professional sense, allowing you to get advice about technology, ask questions about a specific town, or learn new tips from other PIs.

Datamining Using Social Media

Remember, you don’t have to use every social media app on the job. Think about your clients and ask about the social media they (and the people you are investigating) use. People tend to have a couple favorite platforms they stick to, so focusing on these can be a big timesaver. Avoid misrepresenting yourself, learn how to quickly search social media, and you’ll been an expert on this kind of datamining in no time.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Related Posts

Get Your Insurance Quote - Apply Online

Get Your Quote Today For Insurance Coverage For Security Guard, Private Investigator, Alarm Installer & Many Other Industries

Newsletter Signup

OnGuard E-Newsletter

Specialized Industry Articles

Industry Solutions