For an influencer, Michael Williams has an unconventional take on “the influencer economy.”

This story first appeared in the October 9, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“So it’s not really a whole economy, but it’s a thing, it happens,” said Williams, founder and editor of the blog A Continuous Lean. “It’s the way a lot of brands are talking now, digitally. It’s also a way for a lot of bloggers to work with brands.”

Williams started his men’s wear style blog in 2007 and described the site as an “old trusted friend” and one that can be used to “kill time when you’re hung over at work.” He described influencers as almost a type of low-grade celebrity with some key differences.

“They’re unlike celebrities in that they’re a lot more willing to work with brands to do things to promote brands,” he said. “Anyone with a network and some influence, they can leverage all this stuff.”

That might not always be for the best.

“A lot of people are rushing into working with these influencers,” Williams said. “And I don’t always think everybody’s putting their best foot forward. For brands, it means so much because these influencers embody so much lifestyle. A lot of these bloggers — myself included — they’re eager to work with brands they like. It’s a very natural pairing, it can be effective.”

But he said bloggers have to be careful about how they interact with brands.

“You have to be honest with people about what you’re doing,” Williams said. “Don’t trick anyone. Don’t take stuff for free and act like you love it. If you fiancée works at the brand, you have to be honest about that. The readers understand that.”

Williams, who also consults for brands, said he’s not dependent on the blog financially and uses it as an outlet for self-expression.

“If I could keep doing it, I’d love to,” he said. “If one day the Internet votes me off the island, I’m OK with that.”

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