Overview of this campaign
Though The New York Times is nationally syndicated, a disproportionate number of our readers are based in New York. We wanted to ignite conversations in regions nationwide that we do not always hear from, and provide a platform to highlight regional traditions.
We saw a unique opportunity as we prepared The United States of Thanksgiving, a collection of 52 recipes that each evoked an individual state (plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico). “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 Food editor Sam Sifton.
Our news, product and social media teams collaborated to create a listening piece that bridged the gap between social platforms and NYTimes.com. We used Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Foursquare as both an earpiece for The Times and a microphone for our readers. For example:
- We used Facebook to solicit reader input on regional dishes as our editors developed the list of recipes. To do this, we published a series of geo-targeted Facebook posts with prompts such as: “It’s not Thanksgiving in California unless ______ is on the table.” The Food desk incorporated reader feedback into their selections.
- To make the reader experience more social, The United States of Thanksgiving launched in conjunction with 52 regional dinner conversations: alongside each recipe on NYTimes.com, we invited readers to “Join the Conversation” by clicking on a link to the geo-targeted Facebook post for that state’s recipe. There, we asked readers to share their own recipe tips and local traditions.
- Further, we leveraged Pinterest’s new atlas feature to create a visual, interactive Pinterest Map of the recipes that evoke each state. We worked closely with Pinterest and Foursquare to add locations to their site so that all regions would be represented.
- To connect with readers on their phones, NYT Food shared beautiful images of the dishes on Instagram and Twitter.
Results for this campaign
We succeeded in sparking robust, enthusiastic conversation across the country. Our geo-targeted posts increased our reach in non–New York City regions by more than 30 percent, and our “People Talking About This” metric in key regional markets rose by more than 40 percent. Readers from all 52 states and regions participated, and were joined in conversation by Times journalists.
Sifton provided tips to cooks who were struggling in their kitchens, and other Times journalists such as David Tanis, David Carr and Kevin Quealy jumped into Facebook conversations. The posts brought family traditions from all over the country into the spotlight. The experience resembled a digital, nationwide potluck.
We saw signs of sharing in print, too: the most-clicked button on The United States of Thanksgiving page was “Print,” used by 32,000 users to print recipes 94,000 times.
As with all things social, the conversations included some disagreement. Our fans let us know when they thought we missed the mark with some recipes, which will help us get it right in 2015. The response from Minnesotans to our Minnesota “Grape Salad” entry was so fervent, it elicited media attention from national and local news outlets including NPR, Mashable and Fox News Minneapolis. This NPR blog drove 20,000 visits to our feature. The hashtag #grapegate was born, and our public editor Margaret Sullivan issued this comment. Sifton responded by providing an additional recipe for another local favorite, “Hot Dish.” The avid response speaks to the impact of the feature and the amount of social conversation our campaign was able to generate.
Overall, readers lauded our efforts. It showed in the quality of the comments as well as the numbers: the collective Facebook posts reached over 1.3 million people and garnered 2.7 million impressions. Social media referrals from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest drove 60 percent of all referrals to the Thanksgiving feature on NYTimes.com, which reached 2.5 million unique readers in total.