What's in a Facebook 'like'?


Annie Pace Scranton and her friend Chris Crater both love Facebook. But when it comes to the "like" button, they have very different views.

"My like is hard to get. When I like, I want it to really mean something," Cater said.

"And I would say that I like things probably about once an hour. Is that too much?" Scranton said.

It's not for advertisers, who have been embracing Facebook in a big way. Hundreds of thousands of them have created pages for their fans, hoping they'd like them.

"Liking has become the 21st century bumper sticker. It's kind of your way to show your identity and say, 'Hey I like this brand,'" Bulbstorm CEO Bart Steiner said.

Bulbstorm is a marketing firm, and Steiner says companies recognize the power of the thumbs up, knowing it grows their list of potential customers and are willing to offer big rewards to those who click it.

"Virtually every brand that's been on Facebook for a while has done some kind of sweepstakes," Steiner said.

From luxury vacations to fine jewelry to high-tech electronics, "like" something on Facebook and you can win. But that's only the beginning of the benefits.

But you may want to think twice before you click. Experts say there are also potential drawbacks.

"Consumer beware, when you like a brand, you might be used as part of an advertising campaign," Steiner said.

Your support may show in a brand sponsored ad for all your friends to see. And Facebook is even stepping it up with a new product called Sponsored Stories, where not only your name but your picture will show up on top of an ad.

Craig Spiezle of the Online Trust Alliance says you should be concerned with privacy issues as well.

"How is that data being used? How can you delete it? How long is it kept? And perhaps one of the most important things, who's it shared with?" he said.

Read privacy policies and check your own privacy settings, too.

"They may not be set or optimized for privacy settings by default," Spiezle said.

Facebook says they respect customers' privacy. While you can't opt-out of the "sponsored stories" ad campaign altogether, you can check your Facebook activity log to make sure you're only sharing these ads with people you want to.

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