Pop provocateur Lady Gaga and teen heartthrob Justin Bieber are in a neck-and-neck race. Each superstar is nearing a billion  total views on YouTube, and both should cross that milestone within days of one another. How has the pair found such success online? The answer: social media.
Currently, Lady Gaga has more than 19 million fans on her Facebook page. On Twitter, she boasts 6.6 million followers. Even on Ping, Apple's slow-to-grow social network for music, the pop sensation has close to a half-million followers. Justin Bieber is almost as popular, with 12 million fans on Facebook and 5.5 million followers on Twitter. But if anything, his fans are more active. Twitter recently revealed that at any given time, more than 3% of its servers are devoted to supporting Bieber tweets.
It's clear how this work connecting with fans online has translated into success, with each star wielding their social media savvy to boost music sales and video counts. And it's no surprise that both hold the crown for the top two individual music videos of all time on YouTube. Bieber's "Baby" sits at No. 1 with 345 million views. Gaga's "Bad Romance" is right behind with 288 million.
So who will make it to a billion total views first? According to David Birch, communications director at TubeMogul, Gaga is set to reach the billion-count milestone on October 20; Bieber, not far behind, will hit the mark on November 1.
We understand if you are not a big Gaga fan or haven't caught the Bieber fever. What you should be impressed by is the duo's use of social media to spread their popularity, building and expanding their influence among a strong base of fans that is sure to click every TwitPic, every iTunes link, and watch every YouTube upload.
Social media has become integral to every pop star's arsenal, just as crucial as the white gloves and cone-shaped bras of yore. Ask yourself this question: will anyone be truly successful in music again without being successful in social media?
While we're waiting to find out, you might want to take bets on the Gaga v Bieber battle. My money is still on Meatloaf, although at the moment he's a couple hundred million hits behind.