The Message in the Birdhouse Library: Say No to Social Media Pretense!

KOTAW Off the Clock - Adventures of the KOTAW Girl Gang laced with mini marketing tips

Say 'Hello' to Social Media Authenticity | KOTAW Content MarketingIt truly pains me to throw away books, but I am also without passion for collecting them. And too lazy to lug them to the local library. So I have boxes and boxes of gently used and sadly neglected novels sitting in my closet, garage and car.

I was nearing the point of chucking them all — conscience be damned! — when I made a fantastic discovery at a nearby park — a miniature library where you can drop off or pick up a book from what looks like an oversized birdhouse.

Every time my daughters and I walk Ivy and Lucy there, I drop off an armful of books.  Most disappear between visits, and I feel unreasonably proud when they do, as if this somehow reflects on my good taste in reading material.

I like being an anonymous book lender and never intended to borrow anything others had contributed.  But two days ago, I found three fabulous books for my daughter Kelsey:  a book about fonts, a directory of illustrations by famous graphic artists and a collection of portraits of Hollywood stars with Kim Novak (whom Kelsey loved in Vertigo) on the cover.

Here’s a big THANK YOU to the books’ former owners and to the Glendale Public Library for making book-sharing fun.

February 14th is for (book) lovers!

When I found out through a Facebook post that Valentine’s Day is also International Book Giving Day, my heart skipped a beat!

What better way to fight the Valentine’s blues that so often accompany what is really just another day, than to spend it spreading the love of words, ideas, illustration and imagination?!

The idea is to give a book to someone you know, along with an adorable free bookmark and spread the bookish love and cheer!

I think that’s a pretty KOTAWesome way to spend Valentine’s Day. Who’s with me?!


The Message in the Birdhouse Library: Say 'No' to Social Media Pretense | KOTAW Content Marketing

Score! Katherine’s fab book finds!

The “take a book, give a book” idea of the oversized birdhouse library is so quaint — you can give and take anonymously, free from expectation. The book givers don’t get any credit for their good deed other than knowing their donation will hopefully make someone smile. They aren’t donating books hoping the second they drop them off in the book birdhouse, they’re going to be tagged on three difference social platforms with the words “book donating hero” published for all to see. And I Iike that.

Social media makes it easy for kind gestures to instantly become Facebook or Instagram posts. And while I often take full advantage of this magic — a well-crafted Google Plus post can make a person who made my day feel like a star —that is because my thank yous (whether public or private) are always heartfelt and genuine. And if I want to shout to the world (via social media or otherwise) that someone made me smile, I will happily shout.

But do you ever get the feeling that certain people on social media only do something nice so they can be thanked publicly? And if you thank them privately (by way of long, heartfelt e-mail or handwritten note sent in the mail) they consider this some kind of snub, as if nothing is meaningful unless said publicly?

These same people are ever-so nice to you in their public replies to your comments on their posts, nice for all the world to see, but if you send them a direct message, their reply couldn’t be more rude. Because they have somehow gotten it into their heads that it’s important to have a strong personal brand, it’s important to be helpful and kind and supportive and to do good deeds — but only in public forums (because that’s all people see).

To those people, I have this to say: I would hope you could learn to be good for good’s sake, to be the kind of person who anonymously drops off books in a birdhouse library without expecting anything in return, but even if you’re only being nice as a business tactic, because you’ve determined “nice” should be part of your “personal brand” this “niceness” should extend to all your conversations, offline most definitely included.

Because it it doesn’t, it will be that one rude e-mail that will be remembered, not the dozens of positive, upbeat comments on social media.

Do you take the library birdhouse approach to your social media interactions — giving without expecting anything in return, being genuine and supportive because that’s who you are, not because you want a “powerhouse” or someone in the “in-crowd” to like you? Have you ever experienced the shock of a jeckly-hyde transition when dealing with a social media or business connection in a public versus private sphere? How did that affect your view of this person’s “personal brand”?

Please share your thoughts below, and also tell me, are you going to celebrate Valentine’s Day, International Book Giving Day, or both? Oh, and if you’ve read any good books lately, please share the titles with me too! As I’m sure you know, I’m a sucker for a good book!


  1. Hey Kat

    I did not know that February 14 is also International Book Giving Day, so thank you for educating me! As someone who wholeheartedly believes that Valentine’s Day is the most pervasive marketing scam :P, I am extremely glad to celebrate something that actually makes sense! ;)

    As for whether I take the ‘birdhouse’ approach, I certainly hope so. I tried sucking up to the biggies in mid-2013, but hated myself afterwards :P ! Since then, I have only connected with those who truly make me come alive: and you are – and will remain – No. 1 on this list.

    And as for whether I have been privy to the Dr J to Mr H transitions – sure! One such ‘big influencer’ on a major platform was the primary reason I felt horrible for pandering to the big names! So I should actually thank that person for transforming my social media persona from a ‘groupie’ into something more genuine! ;) I have often noticed that a lot of people enjoy interacting with you so long as you can do something for them in return…..*shrug*

    I love you


    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      You are extraordinarily generous, Kitto, and I am always moved by the many heartfelt ways in which you demonstrate your generosity.

      And I truly believe that sincerity is the only real “secret sauce” to social media success — or sustained success, at least. I’m happy that you’re no longer pandering because you don’t need to. You’re creating your own gravitational pull that will mark you as a major influencer (still hate the word, but I’ve given up the fight on that one) to the audience that matters.

      About Valentine’s Day. I like pink, red, hearts and glitter so I get jazzed about the holiday in a little girl way. But as a romantic holiday? I’m with you there. Roses aren’t any prettier when they cost $100 rather than $20 and a lot less appreciated when purchased out of guilt or obligation. A single day doesn’t define any relationship, but the marketers sure have done a good job of thinking it does!



      • My primary pet peeve with Valentine’s Day is that it breeds jealousy and envy! Imagine that – a day that is supposed to ‘celebrate’ love induces negative emotions! In a bid to impress one’s partner, people enter this ‘one-upmanship’ contest by comparing the prices of gifts! LOL

        I have been told that the more expensive the gift, the more your partner loves you :P By that logic, my husband must hate me and vice-versa ;) hehehe

        But I too enjoy glitter and flowers – I just don’t believe that “LOVE” should be commoditized. It should only be FELT and expressed HONESTLY! :D

        Sorry for rambling – hehehehhee (I LOVE YOUR BLOG #Muaah)


        PS: As for recommending a book, do read SHOW YOUR WORK by Austin Kleone… ;)

        • Katherine Kotaw says:

          And it’s not just impressing one’s partner, but friends, relatives and coworkers, too. Kinda sad.

          I haven’t read “Show Your Work” but,thanks to you, I will!

          Love you every day of the year!


  2. Brian J Wood says:

    You asked about my experiences with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. My attitude is a bit of the false “social media brand” pretense is related to people getting stuck in what they are doing wrong, getting a little po’d at the rest of the planet’s inhabitants and wanting more of something for themselves. My attitude is also to let these people morph and change all they want but to go “Shield’s Up” on their switcheroo and flat out ignore their bad side and to continue along the path I am on. I have found over and over again getting upset by this kind of antisocial destructive behavior is not worth it. The take I have on your description of the lending library is a little far out of the mainstream but worth mentioning. I admire social media content providers who do cool things and endure with their strategies over time. The greatest ideas for collaborative networkingish efforts in social media promotion are like sticky glue that once they are there they are hard as heck to get rid of and ignore …as long as they are seen as indispensible to people’s lives. NASCAR’s social media efforts are like that if you want an example. There are folks who live breath and die as NASCAR fans just like there are hard core novel readers with positive energy that they want to spread to others. Social media just takes their love and amplifies it. If a monster shows up one day and tries to burn down the world and everyone in it NASCAR’s community keeps doing what they are doing. Glue sticks

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      You’re right, Brian, glue sticks. And I love this, “Social media just takes their love and amplifies it.” That’s the real beauty of social media — it thrives and grows on positive energy.

      Thanks for your interesting insights. You never fail to deliver food for thought.

      • Brian J Wood says:

        Positive energy sticks as long as it does good things for people and allows them to grow. Pain and hurt stick as long as we let them. The irritating thing is just darned it all to heck lots of times we get stuck on focusing on the wrong impactors and do not see a way out of it. Spending a few bucks to give a sandwich to a homeless person, donating a books to the library or serving as a foster family for an abandoned puppy are really simple things we can all do that get us feeling better and more or less unstuck. The monsters do come after us and scare us to death but the key is to remain positive and just duck, hide out for a bit and pop up again somewhere new. Go look at a 25 cent Whack-A-Mole game at the local arcade if you want a visual picture of remaining positive with social media efforts. The monster is the guy with the mallet and little ol’ you is the mole and the mole always wins even if he gets his head bonked a few times.

        • Katherine Kotaw says:

          I love the Whack-A-Mole analogy, Brian! And this line,”the mole always wins even if he gets his head bonked a few times” is brilliant!

          Sorry it took me a couple of days to see this — I try to be more timely about answering comments — but the timing for me was perfect, as it made my entire evening!

  3. […] even sent us one of her Jennifer! Designs tote bags specifically because she remembered that we donate books to a miniature library that looks like an oversized birdhouse at one of Ivy and LuLU’s favorite parks. She figured the […]

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