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@ EconSM: Can Mobile Social Networks Compete With Their Big Web Competitors?

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imageCorrection: MySpace (NSDQ: NWS) says that 35 percent of its mobile traffic now comes from mobile apps, up from less than 10 percent a year ago. The stats refer to the social network’s mobile traffic, not its overall traffic. We regret the error.

Facebook and MySpace are going full force into mobile social networking with their free apps. MySpace, for instance, says that mobile now accounts for 35 percent of its traffic. But at the EconSM conference, representatives of various mobile-first social networks said that Facebook and MySpace’s forays hadn’t dampened their growth and that they don’t believe it will.

Why?

International opportunities: “I think when you think globally there is a real opportunity … to take share,” said Shawn Conahan, the founder of Intercasting. A “fair number of people” around the world have never seen MySpace or Facebook, he said. Plus, many are not familiar with PCs, while they do have experience with phones.

Differentiated experience: Although Facebook and MySpace may be pushing their mobile apps, it’s not what they are focused on. “They could easily eat our lunch if they were focused on it but they are primarily focused on the web experience,” said Jonathan Linner, the CEO of Brightkite. Moreover, there are different expectations with mobile-first social networks. For instance, “There is the expectation you will hear back almost immediately” when you contact someone, said MocoSpace CEO Justin Siegel.

Making money, of course, remains the big problem. None of the mobile social networks represented on the panel are profitable. Some charge, other depend solely on ad dollars. Brightkite, for instance, is bringing in “north of a couple hundred thousand” dollars a month from ads. “We could all be profitable,” but that would come at the expense of growth, Siegel said. Then again, Facebook isn’t making money either.