With half a million members, the New Zealand Made Products Facebook group has become a national phenomenon, thrusting small-time businesses into the national gaze. But what makes a post stand out among thousands of others?
When scrolling through the seemingly endless visual extravaganza that is the New Zealand Made Products Facebook page, you’re likely to be struck by a single recurring thought – there are many, many exceptionally talented people in this country.
Set up in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown as a simple way for homegrown businesses to market their goods and services, the Facebook page has grown into a massive 490,000-member online market and curiosity shop – a place where you’ll spend hours lost in a vast array of whimsical creations from New Zealand inventors, artists and entrepreneurs of every stripe.
Featuring everything from swamp kauri jewellery boxes to scrap metal animal sculptures to rustic high-country cabins, the page has provided massive exposure for many boutique businesses, some of which have gone from relying solely on small-time trade at local farmers markets before Covid-19, to seeing an explosion in online sales and enquiries in a matter of weeks.
With over 200 businesses posting their wares every day, the page certainly makes for a bustling and diverse market. However, according to founder of the group Sarah Colcord, it doesn’t matter what kind of product is listed. The success of a post comes down to one thing: presentation.
“We’re very visual,” she told The Spinoff. “A lot of these businesses have had to learn fast how to present themselves really well and essentially hack marketing 101 overnight.”
Any New Zealand business can post on the group, provided they include a photo, a caption and contact details. Despite the criteria being displayed at the top of the page, many members still tend to forget or miss it, meaning that of the 7,500 pending posts, only 30% will be approved.
“It’s a lot to ask of people,” said Colcord. “It’s a really challenging time and they might not have any social media experience but the reality is if I approve your post that doesn’t have a photo or caption your post will get zero likes or zero engagements.
“Thinking about the caption or the photo, not just if it’s hi-res but what’s in it – that’s going to get the exposure that you need during this time.”
Although there is a six-day wait time for a post to be approved, Colcord said that from the experience and testimony of member businesses the wait is well worth it. “Once your post gets approved there’s a big impact.”
But what are the best posts on the page? It turns out it’s impossible to rank them. There are far too many, each one unique and impressive, usually accompanied by a small story about the business and the creator. However, to capture the true colour of the group, we’ve compiled a small sample of what’s on offer. Included are the most popular posts by likes, a few of Sarah Colcord’s personal favourites, and some of the more eccentric ones that embody the immense creativity of people making a living, doing what they love.
A husband and wife business in Tāupo, Doughboats has 19k likes, more than any other on the page. Equipped with lights, speakers and heaters, the battery-powered Doughboats can be rented for spins around the shore of New Zealand’s largest lake. BYO drinks and food.
The Rona Collection – Apt Creative
According to the post, the builder first created these raised and covered garden beds for his wife without any intention of selling them. However, when she discreetly posted them on the page, it precipitated a wave of orders and created a business where there was none. This is the second-most popular post with 16k likes.
Sweet Little Treat – Cakes by Karin
Yes, that is an actual Heisenberg cake and a baby orangutan holding a kitten.
Te reo wrapping paper – Māu Designz
Wrapping paper with te reo Māori designs, made by a 13-year-old business genius and aspiring table tennis player.
Kiwi icon moulds – Kelly Vize Workshop
They’re (probably) not edible, but these iconic biscuit and lolly key rings and magnets temporarily sold out after they were first posted on the NZ Made Products page.
Birds in uniform – Bonnie Fraser
Because who doesn’t love birds, especially when they’re wearing little coats, ties and goggles?
EnviroMate 100TM – Automated bait station
The ultimate in pest eradication, this retro robot killing machine automatically feeds pests fresh dry lure in small amounts for 21 days, lulling all the critters into a false sense of security, then switching the bait to poison.
Outdoor digger bucket fire
The epitome of upcycling, these outdoor digger bucket fires are made to order by a dad in North Canterbury.
Alpine Cubes – Lake Ohau
A boutique cabin with an outdoor bath under a dark sky reserve in a high country station.
Made in Muriwai in west Auckland, these urban compost bins are made out upcycled washing machine drums and plywood, and spin to mix the fresh scraps in with the mulchy goodness. Because rats love to live in compost bins, the Urbin also features a built-in rat trap to catch the invader and deposit it in the pile of hungry microorganisms. According to the post, when you empty the bin a week later “there will be nothing left but rich humus”.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.