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What Jewish Donors Need To Know About “Influencers” vs Real Influence

Emily Schrader has written an important post in Ynet about the so-called “influencer” craze and its impact on donors.

In only a few years, the era of Jewish “influencers” has exploded in the Jewish world with seemingly every pro-Israel organization and even government bodies creating influencer cohorts. This programming is then packaged up and sold to Jewish donors — especially in the U.S., who are making investments in the millions of dollars, into organizations and programs without the organizations or donors understanding how social media works.

The result has been an alarming trend of Jewish organizations paying exorbitant fees for pointless, unproductive programming — from speaking engagements, to social media campaigns, to entire organizations, and then exaggerating, whether intentionally or not, the impact of said campaigns on Jewish donors.

This dishonesty harms the community as a whole because resources are invested in programs that falsify success on social media, without the Jewish organizations ever having to prove that they’ve actually had an impact on anyone.

As the owner of a digital marketing company and someone with over a decade of experience in social media campaigning in political campaigns and causes both related to Israel and other initiatives, I’ve witnessed how easy it is to create artificial engagement and an artificial following.

Today, Jewish donors are being lied to on two primary fronts: inauthentic influencers and ineffective initiatives.

One of the biggest problems with the influencer model of investment is that it’s incredibly easy to fake having an impressive following. A few thousand dollars will give you a million followers, and for a few thousand more you can even purchase views or engagement. Sounds great right? Except when followers, engagement, or video views are purchased, it’s not actually real people engaging with the content — it’s click farms.

Instead of doing due diligence to research Jewish content creators before partnering with them, Jewish organizations are blinded by the number of followers they have, even when those followers aren’t authentic. This is an insult to the Jewish donors paying for these projects, and it’s an insult to the cause.

Meanwhile, Jewish donors are being handed impact reports about millions and billions of impressions when most if not all of it is nonsense. “Impressions” are defined differently by each platform, and they also cannot be used to measure sentiment – impressions simply mean the number of times a piece of content has been seen, and it doesn’t tell you how many people you are reaching, much less engaging with.

Instead of Jewish organizations or donors evaluating whether or not these influencers are even authentic or relevant, they’re writing checks and planning events thinking they’ve made it big, because an influencer with 300k followers, 295k of which are bots, is speaking on a panel.

Sadly, almost all of the major pro-Israel organizations today have done this in the last two years.

The result is a cycle in which influencers are charging legacy American Jewish organizations anywhere from $20,000-$45,000 USD for speaking engagements — on par with speaking fees of world leaders or MKs. The difference is that, unlike world leaders, some of these influencers have no expertise, no experience, no background in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no military experience, no academic credentials, and, in some cases, no experience in Jewish activism at all. Then the Jewish community is surprised when Gen Z isn’t understanding the complexities of Israel.

Inauthentic followers aren’t the only challenge, however. Sometimes initiatives related to social media have the best intentions but simply aren’t structured for success.

In an article published a few weeks ago, the Jewish Insider wrote about the new initiative of Israeli political advisor Moshe Klughaft, Act News — a social media account that’s bringing news about Israel in English in 3-minute studio segments for social media.

The initiative already has raised millions of dollars and is boasting hundreds of thousands of views on their content. Indeed, looking at their Instagram and TikTok, it would appear at first glance that the initiative is exploding with success, but a deeper dive brings up serious questions.

For example, the most recent video on their Instagram has 182,000 views at the time of writing this article, but only 48 likes, and that’s not an anomaly — the past 9 video segments all have between 48 and 157 likes, while having tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of views.

Furthermore, looking at who liked the posts, it’s almost exclusively Israelis — which begs the question, who is this initiative actually reaching? And if they are effective, why are so few people who watch the content, not liking or engaging with it? A video with hundreds of thousands of views should have at least 1,500 likes on a bad day.

In the case of Act News, it’s not possible to know for certain the cause of the discrepancy on their page, but generally speaking, disparities like this occur when users heavily advertise for or purchase views. That is why companies that sell a product on social media will often have 3-4 million views on a short video, but only a few hundred likes.

This is a perfectly normal strategy for sales conversions — but to present this strategy as changing hearts and minds would be misleading.

Jewish donors deserve authenticity and transparency. Both donors and Jewish organizations need to have a deeper understanding of how social media influence can be fabricated, as well as how analytics can be selectively manipulated, or this problem will only get worse as the community continues to elevate those who are exploiting the commitment of Jewish donors to supporting Israel and combating antisemitism.

With all the algorithm changes over the years, this simple truth remains. The best way to create a following and to have a meaningful impact is to put in the work to make authentic and creative content. In the long run, this is the only thing that will pay off and the only thing that has the power to change hearts and minds at an individual level.

This article hits the nail on the head and is a huge reason I cannot stand the term “influencer.” It is meaningless and misleading.

I was recently asked by someone who received an email for our current fundraising campaign to provide evidence of “Israellycool” going beyond the echo chamber. They wanted some quantitative proof of this. As I told them at the time – and in line with what Emily wrote above – this is not something that can really be proven with numbers (whether it be numbers of social media followers or site visitors). The only proof are real-life examples of actually “changing hearts and minds at an individual level.”

In Israellycool‘s case, this includes the following examples:

  • pro-palestinian female Arab blogger set up a Wikipedia page for Israellycool after she became a regular listener of our podcast
  • number of people posting antisemitic things have renounced their ways and promised to promote tolerance following Israellycool exposes on them
  • Dubai businessman Thani Al Shirawi gave David a shoutout at the Israel-Dubai conference. In the shoutout, which you can view here, Thani acknowledged their longtime friendship (predating the Abraham Accords), and spoke in defense of Zionism, which is something he learned more about through David. Thani is a staunch supporter of Israellycool and has even helped David in his fundraising efforts
  • former Palestinian Salafi radical is a huge fan of Israellycool and has chosen it as the platform to tell his story
  • Syrian refugee approached us in order to connect with Jewish people
  • Legendary singer Alan Parsons shared an Israellycool post to rebuff infamous antisemite Roger Waters

There is something else Emily did not mention, but is a real phenomenon. And that is “shadow banning.” Per Wikipedia:

Shadow banning, also called stealth banning, hellbanning, ghost banning, and comment ghosting, is the practice of blocking or partially blocking a user or the user’s content from some areas of an online community in such a way that the ban is not readily apparent to the user, regardless of whether the action is taken by an individual or an algorithm.

Shadow banning seems to be something affecting many Facebook pages dedicated to Israel advocacy. Take the following example: A Facebook page for Druze in Israel – which is not dedicated to Israel advocacy and which has 28K followers – recently posted their page reach statistics over the past 28 days:


Compare to the stats of the Israellycool Facebook page – which has 23K followers – over the same period:


Reach of 1.8M vs reach of 31K for pages with a similar amount of followers. And the Druze page posts less than I do.

This is just one of the challenges of being an Israel advocate on social media. Another is the possibility of losing your account at any given time. Thankfully, I am able to overcome these challenges (partly because I have my own website and established platform).

In the meantime, if you are a regular reader or someone interested in really influencing hearts and minds outside the echo chamber rather than just paying attention to number of followers (or fancy memes not really reaching outside the pro-Israel bubble), please support us by clicking on the below:

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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