Like many of the success stories on social media, Cougar Boys was only ever meant to be a bit of fun.
Pakuranga boys Alex Afamasaga, Shivneel Chauhan, Uoka Falefa and Torrell Tafa went to Edgewater College together, a class-clown foursome with similar senses of humour and the talent to be funny. They'd walk home together, telling jokes, hooting with laughter.
They started making videos eight years ago at Tafa's mum's house. They'd dream up an idea, clown around, record some footage and then leave Tafa to edit and post it online. Earning money from larking about wasn't part of the plan.
After college, the boys all went on to university and no longer walked home together, but they kept making videos.
"We weren't thinking to get paid for this or make money. It was always about the content, and staying on trend," Tafa says.
It was the Harlem Shake challenge that swept YouTube in 2013 that got them started. The Cougar Boys made their own version and, to their shock, it got 100 views.
"That was, basically, a lot back then. We thought that was insane, crazy. It was a like a million views today to us."
They made another video which radio stations Mai FM and Flava FM shared on their websites. The Cougar Boys were on their way.
Roll on eight years and they've built up a valuable following - 181,000 on Instagram, 227,000 on YouTube, 450,000 on Facebook – that brands want to tap into. Create good content, build a following and the brands will come.
The Cougar Boys have done skits on social media for brands like Huawei, Sprite, The Warehouse, Bonds underwear, Arnott's and other food brands.
More often than not, the brand attraction is unintentional. Take the blokey "how to pick up chicks" gag the Cougar Boys started doing. They'd cruise round places like K Rd and ask young people out and about, and often intoxicated, for their best pickup lines, edit the video and put it up online.
Next thing they were being paid by nightclub owners to interview people outside their clubs, and were sent to Australia to do the same. Some of those videos got a million views each.
They've got an agent now, something they thought existed only for "actors and sports people".
It's Tafa, 27, who drafts the ideas and scripts, shoots and edits. But he admits the videos don't always turn out the way he planned. There's a lot of improvisation and the other three Cougar Boys go out of their way to go off script.
"It doesn't make sense sometimes. Their goal is to avoid the script. That's why it works."
Instead, there are lots of bloopers, laughter, running gags, banter and teasing. The bloopers become part of the end result.
Tafa also has a following of his own: 85,000 on Instagram, 30,000 apiece on Facebook and YouTube, and nearly 159,000 on TikTok, working with brands including McDonald's, Air New Zealand, Sky TV, Sony and Vodafone. Heineken sent him to Tokyo.
He's done work for Māori Television and Fresh TV, appearing in season 2 of Know Your Roots, where eight urban Māori and Pasifika contestants battle it out in a bid not to be "the most plastic Poly" on the show.
Two years ago Tafa realised he was doing well enough to work fulltime as a content creator, giving up his job as a flight attendant with Qantas – during which time he became known for his travel videos as well.
"Getting paid for something that you post online is crazy, and it's still crazy."
And he earns a good living doing it, more than he earned as a flight attendant. It's fun, too. He's done a Matrix parody and Warner Bros asked him to do a skit featuring British rapper Stormzy's song Own It, featuring Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy.
He's toying with the idea of a clothing line – "I'm probably the only person in the entertainment space that doesn't have a clothing brand" - but it always comes back to content. Almost thinking aloud, Tafa says he has an idea.
"Can I start a clothing company in 48 hours and create content around it?"
While brands are still a little cautious about TikTok and its reach, Tafa's a fan.
"It's so brand new and fresh. It's definitely where all the kids are."
He's been doing social media on various platforms for eight years but now he's being instantly recognised for his recent appearances on TikTok.
For youngsters wanting to follow in his footsteps, he says "just start". And do it for the right reasons.
"Once people see you're doing it for the money or the fame, you are not going to attract an audience who will relate to you."
And keep it simple. "Shooting TikTok on a $4000 camera doesn't give you an advantage."
Tafa points to teenage American dancer Charli D'Amelio's TikTok following of more than 71 million. She shoots on an iPhone, usually at home and often wearing a baggy tracksuit and no makeup.
Tafa, like others who earn their living through social media, predicts the monetisation of TikTok will come as more brands recognise its value. But there's a downside.
"As soon as money was introduced into Facebook I felt like we, as organic users, starting fading out so that's why we jumped onto the other platforms," he says. "Money kind of destroys any platform and that's why a lot of people have moved off Facebook. You need to pay to be seen."
READ MORE FROM THE SERIES:
• Today: The fame game: Hitting it big on social media
• Today: Digital fame: How the Cougar Boys conquered social media
• Saturday: MONDAY's child: How Jaimee Lupton sold 22,000 bottles of shampoo in a week
• Sunday: Reality TV stars Harry Jowsey and Kristian Barbarich reaping online rewards
• Sunday: Jaime Ridge on how to get noticed
• Monday: Miria Flavell's Hine Collection caters for women of all shapes and sizes