By Meghan Peters, Strategic Partnerships, News
When The New York Times prepared to launch The United States of Thanksgiving, a collection of 52 recipes each evoking an individual state (including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico), they knew the interactive feature would ignite conversation and hit its readers close to home.
“Our hope was that people would have conversations about what foods they most enjoy on Thanksgiving in different parts of the country and why,” said Sam Sifton, food editor of The Times. “We got 52 of them, each as distinct and fascinating as the states themselves.”
The Times tapped into this state-by-state engagement opportunity on Facebook and created a series of 52 Page posts. Each post led with a different state’s recipe and was geo-targeted using Page post targeting to residents of that state. Opinions on how well each recipe defined Thanksgiving tables around each state – or didn’t, in Minnesota’s case – and anecdotes about other homestyle favorites filled the comments.
The Times also drove readers on its website to Facebook, linking to a Page post underneath its corresponding recipe, and giving more people the chance to participate in each dish-specific conversation. Many of these Facebook conversation prompts also included recipes for readers’ suggested dishes that were collected through a pre-launch series of geotargeted Facebook posts in which The Times solicited residents of each state to answer a question like: “It’s not Thanksgiving in California unless ______________ is on the table.”
“Rather than having one global conversation about the entire project, we wanted to spark 52 narrower state-level conversations with The Times’s selected dish as the jumping-off point. That facilitated rich discussions between the people of each state on what makes their state, or even their own household’s traditions, unique,” said Cynthia Collins, who leads Facebook strategy for The Times.
Another key to the success of the project was the enthusiastic participation of Times journalists in these state-level discussions. For example, Sam Sifton, David Tanis and Minnesota-native David Carr all jumped into the Minnesota conversation.