Social Media Etiquette Faux Pas or Brilliant Campaign?

Terry Golesworthy
Insurance Experts' Forum, March 11, 2014

“Esurance Wins the Twitter Bowl” claimed The Wall Street Journal while others felt the company drove social media back six years to the early and naïve days of judging success by the number of fans.

For those who missed the fun, Esurance purchased the first commercial after the Super Bowl with actor John Krasinski announcing that by doing so, $1.5 million (30 percent) had been saved. All of this money would be given away in a Twitter sweepstake. Within 36 hours, the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 broke Twitter records, was the most tweeted hashtag during the Super Bowl and trended for two days. 

That was it — the entire campaign — and this has divided the industry. But first, let’s do the numbers:

  • 5.4 million uses of the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag
  • More than 200,000 entries within the first minute
  • 1.4 million hashtag uses in the first hour and 4.5 million in the first 24 hours
  • 2.6 billion social impressions on Twitter
  • 78,000 retweets and 40,000 favored an Esurance tweet
  • 332,000 views of the Esurance commercial on YouTube
  • 261,000 new followers
  • A 12x spike in visits to the Esurance website in the first hours of the sweepstakes
  • The hashtag Esurancesaves30 was used more than the hashtag for the Seattle Seahawks (3,717,464 to 3,119,173) and more than the combined total for Toyota, Go Daddy, RadioShack and Maserati
  • The story was picked up by thousands of media outlets

For simple brand awareness, these are exceptional numbers.

Of course, many of these followers have little or no interest in buying insurance. Experience also tells us that Esurance is likely to lose between 100,000 and 150,000 followers, possibly more. This can be a downer unless reasonable expectations were set at the outset. But does Esurance need 260,000 uncommitted followers? If they lost all of them, would that be a bad thing? Is the brand awareness gained far more valuable than Twitter followers?

One critic of the campaign said, “I am deeply disappointed to see Esurance’s Super Bowl sweepstakes results widely celebrated. Six years into the social era, I thought we had reached a certain point of social media maturity where we realize that fans and followers are not leads and that relationships are built through shared values and meaningful interactions.”

Another added, “I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Awareness is a BS metric. What did this stunt prove? In the end, it proved nothing more than if you put a sign reading “FREE BEER,” you'll get a stampede of people barreling down your door. Only in this case, it was cash instead of a cold one. The irony of it is that I didn’t learn that in Social Media Guru School. I learned it as a kid watching Looney Tunes.”

Esurance countered, saying they “were not claiming that this will drive conversions. Brand awareness is off the charts though.” They went on to say that “We know that sweeps aren’t about deeper engagement. This one was about creating more awareness in a hyper-competitive space.”

Allstate CEO Tom Wilson weighed in, confirming Allstate’s strategy regarding Esurance has been to establish it as the go-to brand for the insurance buyer who wants self-service above all else. Wilson remarked, “What I like in particular is the campaign is extremely consistent with what the brand stands for.”

Business2Community Magazine lauded Esurance saying, “Over half the [Super Bowl] ads had hashtags, but #EsuranceSave30 may have been the only one that actually gave viewers a reason to use it.”

Certainly many of the tweets were far from complimentary about Esurance; there was, after all, no requirement to say anything in particular, just to use the hashtag. But, with 4.5 million tweets, who apart from the most dedicated social media people read them?

Bottom line: Most ad and marketing commentators seemed to love the campaign, whereas many social media experts did not.

And this divide and friction will grow as social media integrates into the broader sales and marketing objectives and insurers seek to derive more measurable business value from campaigns and interactions with consumers on social media platforms. The social media community sees it as an opportunity to deepen customer relationships, for meaningful dialogue with customers, and to grow awareness through shared experiences. But are they being purists? Esurance sells to price-conscious consumers who may have little brand loyalty. Maybe there is no deeper relationship to be had. To be fair, Esurance are active engaging with customers on social media, but did the Super Bowl blitz negate the social activities on the other 364 days? Do they deserve to be thrown out of the good social club? 

Also see Insurers and Social Media - Where are We?


One trade publication claimed it was good, saying, “All in all, it’s not just a big win for Esurance, but insurers overall, which can, with more effective use like this leap forward into the 21st century, when it comes to customer interaction — and shed the stodgy laggard stereotype.”

Esurance, by running the campaign, represented themselves as anything but stodgy — as risk-takers, willing to buck the image of insurance and to position themselves as a very different alternative. Marketing is about creating differentiation. Esurance has used (or abused) social media to do that.

So what do we take away?

  • Social media sweepstakes are often used by insurers
  • Insurers give charity donations in exchange for a like, or a share
  • Contests are decided by soliciting content and counting votes

Do these tactics create conversations or develop relationships? No, but they might recruit an audience with whom to have conversations on social platforms. Esurance used no targeting (apart from having, or being willing to open a Twitter account) so unlikely to engage in conversations. But they might be the subject of many conversations on social platforms, and maybe that works too. Social media can be a very powerful tool and not everyone will agree how it is best used.

This blog was posted with the permission of the Customer Respect Group.

Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, has covered technology issues and innovations in the insurance industry for many years.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Terry using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He also can be reached at

The opinions of bloggers on do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.


Comments (1)

If your agency thinks this is a bad idea, get a new agency.

As the article points out, the objective was awareness. Auto insurance is a product nobody wants, everybody must have, and is a near commodity; some would take out the near qualifier.

Combine that with large, incredibly good competitors especially GEICO.

So take note of the critics in this post and scratch their agencies ff of your list.

Posted by: Mitch C | March 14, 2014 10:05 AM

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