Look Before You "Like"

What do you "like" on Facebook? From favorite photos to favorite brands, Facebook users around the globe have become obsessed with the "like" button and are reaping the benefits. But users beware,{}there's more to the "like" button than first meets the eye.{}

A "like" can reward you with discounts, contest wins, or inside information about favorite brands. But critics say we need to look, before we like.

Annie and her friend Chris 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." "And{}I would say that{}I like things probably about once an hour. Is that too much?"

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. It's kind of your way to show your identity and say, 'hey{}I like this brand.'" Bart Steiner is the CEO Of 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."

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

"Offers, discounts, or access to unique information. Or you can give your feedback to a brand for the first time and have them really be able to listen to it." 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."

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."

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? And perhaps one of the most important things, who's it shared with?"

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!

Facebook says it respects 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.