Ryan Trahan is considered a master YouTube storyteller.
By these numbers on his recent series, he’s clearly doing something right:
→ 40M views total
→ 5.7M views/video average
→ $400,000 raised for safe water
→ All of these numbers in only 7 days
But how does he do it? What goes into making a Ryan Trahan video? What can you learn and apply to your own content?
Let’s dig in ⛏
This week’s TLDR:
- Building blocks of YouTube storytelling
- Visual breakdown of Ryan’s story structure
- Key takeaways that apply to nearly every niche
Constructing a YouTube Story
Here’s a visual breakdown of Ryan Trahan’s first video in his €0.01 series:
How does Ryan do it? Let’s take it step by step:
I break videos down into 5 specific building blocks 👇
This is the cornerstone of any successful video on YouTube. Period.
There has to be some type of value given to the viewers - value from their perspective, not just yours. This can look like anything from tutorials to pure entertainment. If viewers don’t feel like they are receiving value: don’t pass go, don’t collect $200.
How do you know what a viewer will find valuable on any given video? It’s simple: if they clicked on your video, they’re interested in the value promised by the packaging. (more on packaging mistakes here)
If viewer satisfaction is a piggy bank, this is the primary currency.
Think of progression as the vehicle that carries your viewers to the value delivery moments. This means that progression
- should always be new information (no repetition)
- should be related to the value expectation (set by packaging)
- should always be moving towards value delivery (no lingering)
Progression done well can maintain your balance or even add a few coins. On the other hand, poor progression can drain your viewers’ satisfaction account at an alarming rate.
Does this mean that you should take every shortcut possible to get to the value? Not at all! You don’t want to end up like Michael Scott:
So what’s the best route to take? That takes us to…
This is the GPS so your viewers don’t feel completely lost. The instant viewers don’t understand where they’re headed, they'll be grabbing the wheel themselves (clicking off).
Said another way: context makes sure your viewers are willing to stick around for the progression + payoffs. It answers “why” they should care.
Context Keys 🔑:
- keep it snappy
- keep it relevant
- keep it necessary
As with anything on YouTube, there are exceptions and times where you won’t be able to do all 3 perfectly. So how do you keep your piggy bank full?
Imagine you’ve been on a road trip and driving for 9 hours. Everything is kinda fuzzy. You know you’re headed somewhere, but haven’t actively considered it for the last 47 minutes. Your mind begins to drift and then…
A truck swerves into your lane. Awake now?
Disruptions are the (less dramatic) equivalent. They keep viewers engaged and prevent their minds from drifting to the suggested video list.
The two primary buckets are:
- Emotional Disruptions
- Not necessarily tied to story
- eg: pace changes
- music changes
- sudden interruptions
- Narrative Disruptions
- Tie directly into story
- eg: foreshadowing
- stake changes
- time restraints
- eg: foreshadowing
- Tie directly into story
NOTE: use discretion with your disruptions. They need to keep viewers engaged without being obnoxious. Viewer satisfaction is the ultimate goal here, not 7% more retention that pushes your audience away.
This is what I call anything that is a withdrawal from the satisfaction piggy bank. Common examples:
→ Buy this product
→ Be sure to donate
→ News or updates about channel direction
If there’s a part in your video that doesn’t fit into any of the 5 other buckets, there’s a 97.3% chance that it’s useless (from a viewer perspective). This is where I hammer my clients - in the most encouraging way possible of course ;)
You need to be ruthless with your own content. The internet will be.
→ Irrelevant context
→ CTAs before value
→ Non-value prop content
→ Repetition (see how annoying this is? lol)
There are two segments in Ryan’s video that I would argue are “useless”. Both segments are repeating information that the audience already has.
13:06 is counting up the currencies after the totals have already been shown on screen (no new information happening here = repetition). I would have removed this portion and gone straight to Ryan exchanging the money to prevent this pause in momentum.
17:25 is a similar occurrence with Ryan counting money that has already been totaled via graphics for the viewer.
Are these egregious offenses? Not in the slightest. If the worst your video has in 15 seconds of repetition in 21+ minutes, you’re doing alright.
Now that we have the building blocked defined…
How Does Trahan Do It?
The first minute and a half of Ryan’s video is a masterclass in how to get and maintain attention in a valuable way. I mean, look at this thing:
- Constant movement between the different building blocks
- He begins delivering the “meat” of his video while simultaneously providing opening context
- There are 3 value deliveries within the first 90 seconds
- Note: I defined “value delivery” as anything being bought or sold by Ryan as this is the crux of his penny series.
- This won’t always be possible for every niche/format.
Ryan is a master at disruptions. Every single
→ awkward pause
→ “hgehhg” laugh
→ dance break
is a place that re-engages viewers brains and gets them focused on his content. Take a look at the graph at the top and notice how these disruptions are strategically clustered.
- Use disruptions during extended periods of context to maintain focus
- For extended progression sections, value delivery should be added into the mix as well
- A great example is his portrait drawings. The only clips included here are either A) value delivery or B) funny reactions which act as disruptions.
Last, but often overlooked:
Ryan does not make withdrawals from his piggy bank until he has already added massive value. Too many creators are focused on publishing videos in order to extract value from an audience. That mindset is 100% backwards.
The only way to get value from an audience on YouTube is to give more than you take.
The only slight CTA before the ending is a brief mention around the 33% mark of the video. Ryan is fully focused on delivering an amazing experience to viewers first and foremost.
This breakdown does NOT cover Ryan’s personality and style, pacing, etc. Yes, the building blocks might be the same for every creator and there are some practices that transcend niche. But creators should all have their own unique story construction.
Let’s make a deal:
→ provided value
→ send me a message letting me know
Pleasure doing business 🤝