Getting thousands of potential leads for any topic is no problem with the Twitter API. Identifying the best leads is the real challenge. There are two dates that can be effective in this task: the date when the Twitter account was created, and the date of the last tweet sent by the account. I like to qualify leads by making sure that the account is at least 30 days old, and has tweeted within the last 30 days. The Twitter API makes it easy to get both of these values. Each API request, such as the search or streaming APIs, includes these dates for each user it returns.
A simple way to see this in action is with the /users/show API call. Here is an example for @LadyGaga using this site’s API Console. You’ll have to log in with your Twitter account to use this tool, but if you just want a quick look at the results, here is a screenshot:
You can apply this technique when you extract results from either the search or streaming API. For example, if you have the user’s data in a variable called $user, you can get the account’s creation date with $user->created_at, and the last tweet date with $user->status->created_at.