Earlier this year, some shops were out of Feta cheese. Who was the culprit? TikTok, where videos that showed an easy-to-make baked feta pasta recipe went viral.

TikTok was launched in the U.S.A in 2018. It has since become a major player in the world of shopping. People are more likely to purchase items they see on the app (e.g. cheese or leggings).

TikTok is now looking to capitalise on this power. Sandie Hawkins, who is the general manager of North American operations for TikTok, was hired last year. She deals directly with brands, helping them buy ads through the app, creating TikTok videos, and explaining how it can help boost sales.

Hawkins discusses the differences between an influencer or a creator in an interview with The Associated Press. She also discusses why she bought feta cheese. These questions and answers have been edited to be more concise and clear.

Q: How can you make a TikTok video go viral?

A: The beauty of the platform is that you don’t know what it’s capable of. Every piece of content can go viral on the platform. The “For You” page is where TikTok’s magic happens. It learns what content you enjoy and brings that content to you. It doesn’t depend on who you follow.

Q: What makes TikTok videos so appealing?

A: It’s the evolution in product placement. Real people are showing product, or wearing it and using it in the way you would. Perhaps you are a dancer, and you see leggings with great comfort. They aren’t trying to make the products do something they don’t.

Q: Why do you call TikTok video creators influencers? What is the reason?

A: They are called creators because anyone can do it, and anyone can make it big on the platform. One fashion creator was big on TikTok. She started wearing her Gap hoodie to her videos, and it started taking off. She’s not someone Gap sent clothing to or followed, which is more on the influencer side. It was her who first wore a Gap jacket as an outfit, and then Gap hoodies took off because people liked what it was she was wearing.

Q: Most people know that influencers on social media apps are paid and cannot be trusted. How can you stop this from happening on TikTok

A: The platform is authentic. People don’t like to believe that the platform is fake. From what I have seen, people would rather not talk about it than stop supporting things they don’t believe. Their followers would stop following them. Their credibility would be lost, which is very important.

Q: What have you done with the TikTok products you’ve seen?

A: Yes, I have made the feta noodles. Although I am not a great cook, I love TikTok’s recipes. When I saw the recipe for feta pasta, I thought, “That is something I could make.” So I headed out to buy the feta cheese. It took me several times before I was able to locate it.

Q: TikTok users can’t purchase anything right now. What will happen to that?

A: We are always searching for new ways to improve our features and make shopping on the platform easier. We’re excited to keep pushing forward, consolidating the path to purchase.