Obama Fans Out-Sing Beliebers on French Lab’s Twitter Yardstick

Justin Bieber’s 37 million followers on Twitter make him the most-followed person on the microblogging service. It doesn’t make him the most influential, according to French mathematicians.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s 29 million Twitter followers repost his comments more often and for a longer time than Bieber’s, giving him effectively a louder microphone than the Canadian pop star, according to an application developed by Paris-based MFG Labs.

The group, founded by French mathematics professors three years ago, released a beta version of “Where Does My Tweet Go?” this month. The app measures the range and path a person’s posts take to show how far they reach beyond direct subscribers and has drawn the attention of closely held Twitter Inc., which is in talks with MFG on how to use it to quantify Web-based media’s impact, Chief Operating Officer Joachim de Lezardiere said.

“There’s all this data available on Twitter, Facebook, Google Maps,” he said earlier this month in an interview at MFG’s offices in Paris’s 9th arrondissement. “It’s dirty data, it’s in a raw state. We’ll clean it all up.”

San Francisco-based Twitter didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on MFG.

MFG use complex algorithms to sort data to help companies understand customers and advertisers tailor efforts to the audience. Clients include Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. film studio and Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group. They focus on speedy turnaround times, targeting months rather than years to get from idea to product. It took just three months for Where Does My Tweet Go? to get from concept to beta stage, for example.

Big Data

So-called big data work is becoming trendy in France, which produces the highest number of math, science and technology graduates in the European Union, as an increasing number of French mathematicians and engineers are putting their talents to use in digital entertainment and online services rather than traditional career paths like banking and industrial companies.

Afdel, an association of software and web application makers, asked the French government in February to co-finance a 300 million euro ($384 million) investment fund to help create 100 big data startups by 2018. Making sense of oceans of data is an increasingly sought-after skill, as advertisers need it to better target shoppers, while companies experiment with it to figure out consumers’ tastes and purchasing behavior.

“If you know how to use it, social data potentially holds a full portrait of anyone,” said Julien Laugel, a data analyst at MFG. “Tell me what you liked or tweeted, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

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