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Katie Sturino is no stranger to wielding the attention of an Instagram audience. Her own blog, The 12ish Style, has 211,000 followers on the platform. And with her network of Instagram-famous dogs — Toast (who died last December), Muppet, Cheese and Pants — her total Instagram platform is nearing 1 million followers.

Sturino recently decided to turn her followers into potential customers when she launched Megababe, a line of personal care products including an all-natural deodorant, body powder and wipes, sold on its own e-commerce site as well as at Ulta. She joined the Glossy Podcast to discuss how she broke into blogging by posing style solutions for other plus-size women, what mistakes brands make when working with influencers and where she predicts the industry is headed next.

Edited highlights, below.

On whether or not influencers are still worth it
Sturino is of the mind that no matter how many followers she attracts, she needs to exclusively partner with brands that resonate with her life and make products she would actually use. When brands reach out without having done much research on whether or not there’s an alignment, either with Sturino herself or one of her dogs, it’s an automatic no.

“I think brands are getting better about it,” said Sturino. “Influencer marketing is so much cheaper than advertising, and you’re reaching a targeted audience. So when people are like, ‘Are influencers worth it?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, they are.’ Do you know how expensive it is to reach the same number of people you’ll be targeting with an influencer? But engaging with an influencer who actually uses a product on the regular is the best way to do it.”

On brands’ strategy mistakes
While Sturino sees influencer marketing as being worthwhile for brands, there are still some growing pains brands haven’t gotten over when it comes to what works best with bloggers. The biggest lesson: Let go of control, and think outside the Instagram feed.

“You have to take a leap of faith as a brand. Brands are really stuck to the feed. If I were a brand, I’d rather have [an Instagram] Story partnership than just one post. I get most of my engagement in my Stories,” she said. “You have to work with people whose opinions you value — brands too often decide what they’re going to do, without looking to the person they’re working with and asking them how to get the most of it. If I were a brand I would be asking, ‘How do we get the most out of this engagement? How do we make this dollar stretch?’”

On the future of influencer marketing
Sturino doesn’t see individual influencer accounts and one-off Instagram sponsorships lasting as business strategies in the long run. Her prediction: influencer networks. Already, brands are seeing the most traction from long-standing partnerships with influencers who become synonymous with the brands they’re paid to promote.

“Everything goes in cycles — I think we’re going to see influencers grow as individuals for a while, but then we’ll see influencer groups form into teams or networks. Instead of seeing brand posts across five or 10 influencer accounts, you’ll see everything on one account as one unit, so you won’t have to follow 50 different people to get similar content. I’m not being negative about the current industry, but I’ve seen it from so many angles, I can poke holes in what’s happening.”

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