Every serious business is online now--even if it's just a website. And nearly every website built or redesigned in the last five years has some ability to share content whether it's through e-mail or social media.

Getting your content shared is the gold standard of business marketing. The obvious reason is because the more your content is shared, the more people see it and connect with you and your company. But here are five other reasons why getting your content 'viral'--virality matters.

It's shorthand for engagement ROI. I'm not sure if there are hard numbers to support this but everyone I know--myself included--makes a decision on whether or not to read something online by looking at two things immediately: 1) How long is it? 2) How popular is it?

Popular is measured by social sharing. How many people liked it on Facebook, or shared it on LinkedIn? If an article or webpage is banking sharing, those who get there are likely to conclude that the return on their investment to read it--or share it--is worth it. If it's not, regardless of how someone got there, they may keep moving.

It's also credibility shorthand. More and more, the credibility standard of content isn't valuation, it's popularity.

It used to be that someone could say, "the New Yorker reviewed my marketing essay." And that was about as good as there was. Today, the same author or publisher may say, "my marketing essay got 50,000 tweets." And they may even be more proud of the tweets--it's the type of credibility you add to our resume. Or, my mistake, your LinkedIn profile.

"Digital virality becomes even more critical as more and more businesses move into the network economy. Companies whose primary focus is providing goods and services over the internet, for example through a marketplace or crowdsourcing site, must nail content marketing because that is how their customer is going to engage." says Rob Israch, CMO at Tipalti, a leading provider of global payment management automation systems.

Word of Social Media is a thing. Word of mouth is too slow. Who actually talks to anyone anymore?

Now people talk by and through their Facebook pages and Instagram photos. Linking something there is far more impactful and faster than talking is. Talking to someone face-to-face may have more value than a single "like" but give me 10,000 "likes" over 100 conversations every day.

Virality is jobs. If you measure how important something is by how many jobs it creates, virality is big and getting bigger.

In just four years (2009 to 2013) social media jobs ballooned from 16,000 to more than 180,000. Most of those jobs are about finding, creating and keeping virality of content.

Virality is money. It really is that simple. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to say nothing of outlets like BuzzFeed and Gawker have become trillion dollar industries (yes, pinky is up as I say it, Dr. Evil style) because they are creators and curators of virality. The platform that delivers views can trade those in for cash--and lots of it. If people are coming to your site or sharing your content, you're creating value in reputation as well as money.

But how?

Virality wunderkind Emerson Spartz, said in an interview, "If I had to summarize everything I've learned about virality to one key idea it's; the more incentive you give people to share the more likely they are to share. You create a lot of emotion or giving them something of value that incentivizes them to go tell their friends."

Sounds easy. And I'm not saying 10,000 likes is more important than a New Yorker review. But virality is very important and figuring out how to do it will define what being online really means.

Published on: Nov 30, 2014
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