Brands are increasingly on the look out for influencers and an entire market has been built around connecting brands with them to reach consumers.

But when it comes to wooing consumers, particularly young, digital natives, are brands focusing too much on influencers and not enough on influence?

For many brands, an online influencer campaign typically looks something like this:

  • An influencer appropriate for the target market is identified.
  • Directly or through an agency, the brand engages the influencers to promote a product, service or initiative.
  • The brand pays the influencer for access to his or her audience.

According to media reports, some influencers, like Instagram star and fashion blogger Danielle Bernstein, can earn upwards of $10,000 for a single post.

For brands, the costs associated with influencer campaigns seem reasonable.

Influencers with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers provide quick and easy access to audiences that, in many cases, brands would need to spend far more to reach via traditional channels.

Therefore paying $15,000 for a sponsored Instagram post that is viewed hundreds of thousands of times and might be liked by thousands, seems like a good deal.

But is this enough?

One of the biggest problems with influencer campaigns is that the engagements are typically very short in duration.

While some brands have developed robust, multi-channel campaigns around influencers, the sponsored post model is far more common.

This can help brands juice certain social metrics short-term, but the long-term effects are questionable. In most cases, the only way brands can sustain their gains is to continue purchasing sponsored posts.

Another problem with influencer campaigns is that, unlike endorsement deals with celebrities, there is typically no real commitment between the influencer and the brand.

For example, very few influencer deals resemble the relationship between H&M and David Beckham, or Jennifer Lopez and L’Oréal Paris.

This is a blessing and a curse for brands. On one hand, brands can work with even the most popular influencers at a total cost that wouldn’t even get them a lunch meeting with a traditional celebrity, but on the other hand, they rarely get the same level of alignment between the influencer’s brand and their own.

The inconvenient truth is that many brands are spending time and money on influencers but they might not be receiving nearly as much influence as they’d like to believe.

To address this, brands need to think longer term and consider that the efficacy of their campaigns requires deal structures that provide for greater integration and activation with the influencers they’re relying on to help them reach consumers.