Lots of people are saying that influencer marketing is tanking. Partnering with Instagram influencers or popular bloggers seems like a good idea for brands, people say, but it just isn’t worth the investment or the aggravation.

In a recent Glossy podcast, Stacie Brockman, co-founder of Metier Creative and previously a fashion blog editor, said it’s the “Wild, Wild West” because there are too many users that think of themselves as influencers. She even said an influencer once requested a whopping $15,000 for one sponsored Instagram post.

“The brands don’t understand that people come with a very specific audience. While you may like her photos, you have an audience that only wants to see a certain price point,” she said. Later, she said that many people just follow women on Instagram because they think they’re “pretty” and that “the hot girl usually has guys trolling her, not girls who want to buy the product.”

The criticism of the influencer market doesn’t stop there. Recently, an anonymous social media executive wrote an essay in Digiday Confessions claiming: “Influencers are going to start disappearing. Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean shit,” the exec wrote. The reason? Brand gave them too much money too fast, and now influencers are in it for the wrong reasons.

Those criticisms certainly ring true of really large influencers, like those people with 1 million or more Instagram followers. Many of them are unreasonably expensive. Many of them have big egos. Many of them overstate their reach. Plus, some are just plain lazy. Remember when Kardashian baby daddy Scott Disick literally copied-and-pasted instructions from a brand into his Instagram comment section?

What’s the answer? Micro-influencers

Why are brands struggling with influencer marketing? Because it’s much harder than they thought. You don’t just partner with any old Instagram celebrity and get great results. There are so many variables that go into finding the right fit. Location. The influencer’s aesthetic. Their core audience.

micro-influencer-pullout-quoteThe answer is simple: Work with micro-influencers. Instagrammers in the 10,000 to 100,000 follower range offer the best combination of engagement and broad reach — with like and comment rates that exceed influencers with higher followers, according to an expansive study by Markerly. “These micro-influencers will move the needle for your brand and cost a fraction of what you would pay a mega-celebrity,” said Markerly.

It’s true, they are much, much cheaper. In fact 84% of micro-influencers charge less than $250 per branded Instagram post, and 97% charge less than $500, according to a study by Bloglovin. It also said that brands may still naive to the whole process, finding that just 25% of micro-influencers think brands have a realistic understanding of how much influencer-marketing programs cost.

Another study, cited in Jonah Berger’s bestseller Contagious: Why Things Catch On, found that 82% of those who receive a recommendation from a micro-influencer are following the recommendation to purchase. That’s a crazy high conversion rate.

For just about every brand, there’s a perfect micro-influencer that’s already tapped into their core market — brands just need to find them. But traditionally, finding micro-influencers has been difficult because current search methods on Instagram are so limiting. Sure, you can comb through your followers or people that liked your content to see if anybody stands out — but Instagram’s search function is pretty limited.

The answer? Curalate Explore. It enables brands to find authentic micro-influencers quickly by allowing brands to search for influencer criteria all at once rather than searching one hashtag at a time. Brands can also filter by engagement or follower size to weed out the celebrity influencers who are inauthentic, and go beyond those who are already following your brand to discover totally new content sources. Learn more here.

Foolish brands are listening to the “experts” and pulling the plug on their influencer marketing efforts, but that’s a huge mistake. If they’ve been burned by an influencer with a large following, they should try launching a micro-influencer campaign instead. Who needs an influencer with 100,000 followers when you can have 10 influencers with 10,000 followers — and much more engaged audiences — at a fraction of the price?

Will brands make the change? The smart ones will.