Social media has secured its place as an important tool for communication, marketing, and customer service among businesses, but that’s not to say the field has stopped changing. In fact, social networks and the ways that companies and customers use them are continuing to evolve. One clear shift in the social world is how and where people are logging in to their favorite networks.

Mobile devices are moving closer to the center of the social universe. During this year, it’s likely that social and mobile will only strengthen their relationship and become all but inseparable. Here are a few early signs that 2014 will be the year that mobile and social take over.

Sales Show the Preference

Smartphones and tablets have seen soaring popularity over the past year. According to data from Gartner, worldwide sales of smartphones surpassed sales of traditional mobile phones for the first time in the second quarter of 2013. The 225 million units sold in the smartphone category marked an increase of 46.5 percent from sales in the second quarter of 2012.

In its year-end roundup, Nielsen reported that that smartphone ownership among mobile subscribers rose from 56 percent at the beginning of 2013 to 65 percent by October. Social media channels were also among the most popular programs for those smartphone users. According to Nielsen’s data, Facebook was the top smartphone app of the year, with YouTube ranked fourth, Instagram seventh, and Twitter tenth.

Tablet ownership is also on the rise, with a Pew Internet survey finding that 34 percent of American adults older than 18 own a tablet computer. Tablet ownership in the previous year was calculated at just 18 percent.

These are serious spikes in mobile device ownership and use, and there’s no sign of that push letting up in 2014. As more and more people purchase smartphones and tablets, they’re more likely to rely on those gadgets both at home and on the go. Many will still use laptops or desktop computers to access their preferred websites and programs, but it may become a less common point of access.

A Natural Partnership

It’s also worth considering that as your customers rely more on their mobile devices, they may become more accustomed to using apps rather than web-based tools. Social media can be beneficial for companies that have their own mobile apps because the two are such natural complements. Social channels can be more successful at marketing mobile apps than other approaches. That might be because so many people are increasingly using their mobile devices to access social tools. If they see a cool app featured on a favorite brand’s Twitter profile, then it’s an easy task to download that app to that same device and test it out.

Connecting the promotion of your company’s app to your social media presence can make for a stronger statement of your mobile savvy. If you are creating an app, make sure that it offers value to your customers. It shouldn’t just duplicate the content and features of your website or your social profiles. If they’re all the same, why would somebody need to use the different services? Make sure that you’re offering distinct tools to your customers in order to best position your company in the mobile-focused environment we’re seeing for 2014.

Social Networks Are Pushing Mobile

Over the past year, almost every major social network has launched a redesign focused on improving mobile activity. Twitter has gradually added more and better functions from its web presence into the mobile world, improving everything from searches to promoted accounts to ad re-targeting over the course of 2013.

Facebook’s changes in the spring helped show off more local businesses, and it quickly jumped on the bandwagon to prepare its app for the launch of Apple’s iOS 7 in the fall. Google+ made a big push for improving its mobile features hot on the heels of its web revamp in May.

Businesses should take their cues from these mobile-centric choices. If the social networks are preparing for more and more of their activities to take place on a mobile device, then your company needs to be similarly prepared. That means you should stay up to date on what information of yours is most prominent in mobile app designs, and what type of actions are most strongly encouraged among your customers by a given network’s mobile layout. If you can predict what people will do with social tools on their mobile devices, you’ll be better prepared to engage with them, moving forward.

Start Planning Now

Both social media and mobile tools are becomingly increasingly important as pillars supporting your business activities. Whether you choose to focus them on for marketing, sales, customer support, or other operations, social and mobile are poised to have more and more influence on each other in the months to come. Developing a clear strategy for how you want to use these intertwined tools will help your business reach out to the right audience on the platforms they use most.

[Image credits: Luke Wroblewski, ElCapitanBSC, Hehaden, Tom Bream, Intel Free Press]