It's hard to imagine a world without YouTube and YouTubers - the people making a business out of being themselves. So, what is it that makes one person's content "better" than the next? I think the answer is authenticity and recently I had the opportunity to interview my favourite and in my opinion, most authentic YouTuber out there, Lewis (Lew) Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy.
Unbox Therapy is a YouTube channel with 5.7 million subscribers -- centered around the "unboxing" of new gadgets while host Lew, provides honest feedback. As a fellow Canadian, and entrepreneur, I wanted to learn a little more about the business behind unboxing and being a YouTuber.
What first inspired you to turn your hobby of unboxing into a business?
I've been enthusiastic about tech, gadgets and that whole realm for as long as I've been alive. I eventually found my way to starting a small business, a shop that specialized in doing upgrades, repairs, that sort of thing.
I was publishing videos here and there thinking maybe this stuff could help promote this business. I honestly didn't pay too much attention to it until I came back to one of these tutorials and it had something like 100,000 views.
A google prompt was in my inbox asking if I wanted to put ads on it and earn revenue from it and I was like "What? What is this business?" And that's what sort of initiated this exploration into the world of YouTube and that's when I decided to take a more structured approach through the concept of Unbox Therapy.
Why did you take such an authentic approach as opposed to the traditional style we see in other unboxing videos?
For me, there was this moment at which I realized that the secondary opportunity, which has since morphed into the primary, was that maybe not every person is going to be into every single product but maybe we can build a relationship outside of that.
A relationship where you're willing to give me a chance to present something because I've circumvented that generic robotic approach and now I'm in your social stream, in a similar fashion to everyone else that exists there. So I decided in that moment, okay, if I really want to leverage that, if I really want to be that, it's going to be important for me to get on camera, to deliver in a natural way, to really talk to these people as I would my own friends.
To really open up in this way was, at the time, unprecedented. It started out as an experiment, turned into a very powerful component and now I would probably say, the most powerful component in the content that I'm doing.
When did you realize you had something unique with your YouTube channel?
It wasn't immediately apparent, that's the weird part about the YouTube audience, oftentimes the loudest voices in the community are not the voices of the majority. When you go about making a change, doing an experiment, you're getting the feedback that's like "You've changed" and "I like the old way better". You really have to believe in your intuition to overcome some of the immediate feedback you're going to get, instead, meaningful feedback comes a little bit further down the road.
What I've done recently is gone to daily uploads. The effect of that is I feel, the extra amount of freedom that comes with the territory of being frequent and I think the reason for that is that fans really look forward to that next upload. It just changes the level of relationship you have with audience members.
How has your life changed since gaining a strong social media following?
I'm frequently hit with these unusual moments that are a consequence of everything that's happened. People are coming up to me and I'm taking pictures with fans and people are sending me fan mail, it's a whole crazy thing you know?
When I meet somebody who is a fan of Unbox Therapy, how do I convince them, right now, that I'm the same guy? It's almost like people are amazed to find out that the person they see on camera is the person they're meeting in real-life. I never thought the mass appeal for the kind of stuff I was interested in would ever exist on the level that it does.
Out of all the items you unboxed, what are some of your personal favourites?
There are so many fun ones, dude. I think I like the products that are immediately comprehendable; what is the value of this thing and how does it immediately impact me?
I like the ones where you're having a really authentic reaction in the moment. I will almost avoid interacting with a product, or doing too much research prior to actually trying it because I want to protect that conversational way of just experiencing the thing and seeing what comes out.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring YouTubers?
I think that getting started is the main thing regardless to what you have access to initially. If I sat around and waited for perfection, I never would have gotten anywhere.
I would say, try to find the thing that makes it easiest to be yourself. No matter where I was at in life, I couldn't shake the tech thing. If there's some particular thing that an individual can't get away from in their lives, there's a high likelihood that if they were to put that online and share that with people then that authenticity would be received and they would bump into other individuals with a similar passion.
If you come into this space and you have a passion, you're willing to put in the work, you're consistent and you actually care about the people you're talking to, then you can find yourself turning your passion into your profession.
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