Have you ever invested in something, only to realize later that you didn’t do your homework? That’s the position many brand marketers are currently in: They know Instagram influencers are powerful, but they’re engaging those influencers in all the wrong ways.

Mediakix’s latest influencer marketing survey showed that marketers see Instagram as an effective social channel, but few understand how to work with influencers in the space. The influencer marketing agency found that 69 percent of marketers plan to spend the most on Instagram this year, resulting in a gold rush toward influencers with high follower counts.

Take the saga of Snap and Luka Sabbat. Late last year, PR Consulting, representing its client Snap, sued Sabbat, a model and influencer with more than 1.5 million Instagram followers. Despite being paid $45,000 upfront, Sabbat failed to deliver four promised Instagram posts. Although Sabbat’s credibility took a hit from the lawsuit, to be sure, the real loser was Snap itself, which was forced to admit that it was running Instagram Stories — a feature Instagram copied from Snap.

Instagram Influencing Done Right

Snap’s Instagram debacle may be a worst-case scenario, but brands can run into all sorts of snafus with their Instagram influencer campaigns. Before building yours, know that:

1. Disclosure is a must.
The Federal Trade Commission’s endorsement guidelines might look complicated, but they’re actually pretty simple: If your company compensates an influencer for an endorsement, that influencer must disclose the sponsored nature of the content in unambiguous terms. In other words, all the influencer needs to do is to add “#ad” or “#sponsored” somewhere in the text of each brand-commissioned post.

Isn’t the influencer the one who’s liable if she fails to disclose the sponsorship? Sure, but the media isn’t a court of law. Cîroc Vodka recently found itself in hot water after nonprofit Truth in Advertising wrote a letter to the FTC about 1,700 Instagram posts by 50 influencers that TINA claims violate the FTC’s endorsement guides. Although the FTC has yet to take action, Cîroc has received more than its share of bad press for the deceptive posts.

2. Influencers need creative freedom.
Content creation takes a “goldilocks” level of creative freedom: Give an influencer no guidelines to work with, and she could come up with something that doesn’t make sense with your brand; give her too many, and her post might sound like it’s straight from a marketer’s mouth.

Fitness brand Bootea learned that latter lesson the hard way. After teaming up with Scott Disick, Bootea gave the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” celebrity everything from the caption to the time of the Instagram post it had in mind. What went wrong? Disick accidentally made those instructions the caption of his post. Had Bootea’s instructions simply been “be honest about why you love Bootea’s protein shakes,” Disick’s error might not have even made the news.

3. Smaller influencers deliver bigger results.
Kylie Jenner may have 131 million Instagram followers, but her posts cost brands an estimated $1 million a pop. Even if 10,000 of them buy in after viewing a sponsored post, the brand still paid $100 per conversion. Unless the company in question sells cars, companies, or real estate, that’s a high customer acquisition cost.

Not only are micro-influencers 6.7 times more cost-efficient per engagement, but they enjoy a 60 percent greater engagement rate than their larger peers. Even at their small scale, micro-influencers drive 22 times more conversations on social media than the average consumer. Rather than spend your budget on a big-name influencer, enlist several smaller ones for a wider, more meaningful reach.

Marketers aren’t wrong to bet on Instagram, but too many are signing contracts with influencers before doing their due diligence. Social media isn’t like schoolwork: Employees, other influencers, the FTC, and — most importantly — the market are always watching.