If you’ve been avoiding social media because you believe it’s a waste of time, a fad or just for kids, it’s time to rethink your position. Social media (or web 2.0) sites are growing in influence every day and with this past weekend’s civil unrest in Iran, social media has been thrust into prime time.

Because the Iranian government instituted a ban on reporting by foreign media, news outlets have been combing social media sites for information. In a span of a few minutes on Saturday, CNN replayed amateur video from YouTube, cited a posting from opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook page and showed Twitter posts made by Iranians in the middle of the demonstrations. Fox News and other media outlets also turned to social media sites for up-to-the-minute commentary and images from people directly in the fray.

More and more businesses have been discovering the power of social media sites as well. The ability of these sites to enable dialogue and foster a sense of community provides companies of all sizes and descriptions a versatile and powerful sales tool.

Last year, Dunkin’ Donuts launched a highly successful YouTube campaign that solicited customer-created videos. This year, they’re running a photo contest exclusively for Facebook users.

Dell Computers has seen their Twitter following grow from 11,000 people in March to over 600,000 today. What’s more, Dell can trace more than $3 million in sales to their Twitter followers.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has the second-most-popular page on Facebook, trailing only President Obama. When Coke posts promotions on its Facebook page, they’re seen by 3.4 million fans. (Who has the third-most-popular Facebook page? Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Go figure.)

And LinkedIn is evolving into one of the best prospecting tools ever invented, creating massive communities of people who actively want to do business with each other.

So whether you’re a salesperson, sales manager, CEO, association executive, business owner or professional, the time is ripe for you to leverage the massive potential of social media for your career or business. Click on the links above to the visit the referenced sites and set up your own accounts. (They’re free—what a deal!)

While you’re there, look me up. Or click these links to connect with me on LinkedIn, befriend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter or watch my videos on YouTube.

I’ll discuss other social media sites, as well as strategies for using them and helpful resources, in future blog posts. In the meantime, just do a little exploring and get comfortable with the technology. You’ll soon start to see great sales opportunities.

The social media revolution is underway. Don’t be left on the sidelines.