Facebook: Look before you "Like"

(WXYZ) - So what do you "Like?" From favorite photos to favorite brands - Facebook users around the globe have become obsessed with the like button and are reaping the benefits - from discounts to contest wins to inside information about their favorite brands. But experts say there's more to the Like button than first
meets the eye.  

Our love of Likes

Annie 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," Chris says. "When I like, I want it to really mean something."

Annie on the other hand… "And I would say that I like things probably about once an hour. Is that too

Not for advertisers - who have been embracing Facebook in a big way. Hundreds of thousands of them have created pages for their products, hoping to grow the number of "fans" who "Like" them.

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

The power of your Like

Steiner is the CEO of the marketing firm Bulbstorm. He 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 says.

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. You can get offers, discounts, or access to unique information. Or you can give your feedback to a brand for the first time and have then really be able to listen to it.

Look before you Like

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 says.

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.

"The data shows that very often those can be two or more times as effective as an advertising medium. Because by putting my likeness there, they've essentially given my endorsement," Steiner explains.

Craig Spiezle of the Online Trust Alliance says you should be concerned with privacy issues as well.
A lot of these likes are connected to apps that ask you for personal information in order to enter a
sweepstakes, get a special deal, or more.

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

Spiezel suggest you read privacy policies and check your own privacy settings, too.
"They may not be set or optimized for privacy settings by default."

As for Annie and Chris - whether they "Like" a lot or a little, they can agree on one thing.

"Facebook rules!"

What you can do

Facebook says they respect customer 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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