The Storytelling Power of Shane Dawson

If you’ve been on the internet at all over the last year, particularly on YouTube, you’ve probably heard of Shane Dawson.

(If not, that’s fine, but just know his videos took the internet by storm this year and you missed out.)

As a YouTuber for over a decade, Shane has been through it all online. He’s been wildly popular, and he’s been through times where a lot of people were mad at him. In recent years, he’s been doing conspiracy videos and food review type-videos, but this year he completely reinvented himself and his content.

Since this blog is about storytelling, reinvention, and combining those with the power of the internet, Shane is a perfect topic to dive into.

You can check out his channel: here, if you want a look at the progression over the year, but you can see that he started to get away from his old format one year ago.

Instead of diving into the nitty gritty of how he has been succeeding (quality thumbnails, titles, an excellent camera man), I thought I’d cover the bigger principles that made him take the world by storm this year.

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He started with showing more of his life and confronting both of his parents; something that sucked a lot of people in due to the vulnerability this created. Not that I’m saying everyone should go out there and interview their parents about their childhood, but if you want to build an emotional connection with your audience you should at least be telling your own story.

Starting out the year with this kind of vulnerability really sets the mood for the year.

This is why documentaries and interviews start out with a backstory.

It’s a “Here’s where I’m coming from” kind of feeling, so as we progress with him throughout the year, we can see the lens of how he views the world.

Meeting Haters

He has some other videos sprinkled in there, but his next big series is confronting Bobby Burns. Bobby is someone who didn’t say particularly nice things about Shane for the past few years.

This set the foundation for the other series he was going to do throughout the year.

Through the videos, we get to meet Bobby, see how Shane felt about his content, and in the end Shane ends up helping Bobby by giving him work and a car.

Through these videos, if you’re really paying attention, we see Shane confront parts of himself he doesn’t like either. This is his rebirth and a content creator online. He pokes fun at his old content, is completely honest about doing some of his content because he felt stuck in a rut, and wanted raw and honest input into his future content.

That kind of humility is something that can only come from a decade of reading YouTube comments.

Adding His Own Spin

One common theme we see throughout these videos is that Shane is a helper. He can’t help it. He has a huge heart and he genuinely wants the best for everyone he interviews. His personality is what sets his videos apart from something that’s more of a “documentary” type video.

This is something you should be thinking about as well if you want to be a creator online. You have to add your own spin on anything you do, that’s what makes you stand out.

You can see this in almost any single Shane series this year: it’s his personality and humor injected into the storyline that makes it so addicting.

Anyone could have just stood there and told the boring, bland facts about any single one of these people or events, but it’s because his audience is so invested in him that they care about what is happening.

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Coming Full Circle

Because Shane laid the foundation for his backstory and his family, it’s easy to be drawn into his whole life.

So, for example, when Shane brings his Mom to meet Kathy Griffin about 7 months after the start of the year where he confronted his parents, his audience is even more emotionally involved. Why? Because we heard the story of how hard it was for her to be a single mom. His audience heard the backstory of Shane and his YouTube channel getting his entire family fired from their jobs.

So by the time he’s taking his mom to meet a celebrity they both love? It means even more. We see that his journey has some full-circle from being fired from a minimum wage job to hanging out with a celebrity in her 10 million dollar mansion.

The Series

I won’t break down every single series he did this year, but there’s so much power behind releasing multi-part videos. He introduces the story, builds suspense, and then releases the videos slowly but strategically over time.

It might be hard when you’re just starting out to build that kind of suspense for each of your releases, but there’s something to be said for creating content that keeps people coming back.

Everyone wants to know how a story wraps up. It’s why so many of us finish TV series, books, and movies even if we’ve mainly lost interest. “I have to know how the story ends!!”

The Power of A Team

Shane is aware that it’s the team around him that helped make this come true. His new camera man, his friends, family, and his boyfriend really add the personal element. He’s lifting up the careers of everyone around him as he goes, which is a powerful feeling to inspire.

If you’re not in a position where you can include friends or family in your creative process, that can be hard. That’s why it’s so important to network and meet people who are in the industries you want to work in. Not only will it help your career, but if you ever decide to put your life on the internet it can inspire this type of feeling.

The Takeaways

While it’s easy to make excuses that “Oh, I don’t have a cameraman/money/friends who are creators”, this is where I want jump in and remind everyone that Shane came from nothing. He created this through years of work and hustle. That being said, there are still some major takeaways if you want to learn from Shane:

  1. Learn the basics of storytelling. You need a beginning, middle, and end to each story. Just vlogging your life for the sake of vlogging is not a story.

  2. Share your life with people so they get the greater message. If you want people to really invest in you, you have to give them enough to invest in. Shane’s personality and humor shine through in all of his videos. Everyone is hooked on how he tells a story and interacts with the world around him.

  3. Get outside of your comfort zone. Shane was doing a handful of videos on repeat for a long time. Abandoning them and moving onto something else is no easy task. However, you can always go back to something you were doing before. Stepping outside your comfort zone doesn’t have to be the only thing you do if you decide you don’t like it. It worked well for Shane, though.

  4. Keep a pulse on what you’re talking about. Unlike other creators, Shane would edit his videos in real time depending on how people were reacting to his videos. If he needed to fix things and add in more content, he would for the next part. No matter what industry or topic you create content about, the more in-tune you are with that world, the better it will be.

  5. Keep creating. The biggest lesson Shane could ever give the world is to simply keep going. There were a lot of times over the last decade where he could have quit, hung up the towel, and never created another video. Or he could have come under pressure to create content he didn’t truly enjoy. He stuck true to his gut and with an impressive 19 million subscribers (with 8 million of them being over the last year), listening to his gut has clearly paid off.