Yep, it’s a sad truth, unless you’re a Kevin Rose or a Reid Hoffman (or insert some other person’s name that you think is really important and could successfully leverage a landing page) there’s a good chance you’re going to thow up an alleged “viral landing page” and will be disappointed. It’s not because you have a bad idea (actually, it might be) or because you’re not promoting (spamming) the hell out of your site, it’s because no one really cares unless there’s something in it for them.
LaunchRock, a fine service which I’ve used a couple of times after getting over the initial shock of “well why in the world didn’t I think of that” seemingly fixed the problem of people wanting something out of it. Their solution? Incentivize sharing by offering “early access” to whatever you’re signing up for. Works well, but I bet you don’t have anything built to give early access to, do you? Because of this, LaunchRock has been able to successfully make their own site go viral because the only way to get access to use their service, you have to refer 3 people and they must sign up as well. Every deal of the day website out there (Groupon, Living Social, et cetera) is doing the same thing, refer a few friends get some money back or a free deal. Why does this work for them? Because they have something to offer.
This worked well for LaunchRock but in exchange seems to be creating a generation of entrepreneurs (idea guys) that think putting up these sort of pages is step 1 in executing a good idea. Obviously it’s a great way to leverage an established site’s traffic to promote a new version. It’s also a good medium if you’ve already been able to create buzz around a product in the works. If you don’t have at least an alpha version of your product ready to go, setting up a landing page to collect email addresses should be the furthest thing from your mind. Let’s be honest, you’re actually not interested in giving people early access, you’re just interested in collecting 100k emails so you can drop an e-blast when your site is finally ready 18 months from now. If that’s the case, you really should just look into buying a list or shelling out for a sponsored email.