A court ruling this week says 'liking' something on Facebook is an expression of free speech.
A court ruling this week says 'liking' something on Facebook is an expression of free speech. - 
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Tess Vigeland: Here's the latest in seemingly ridiculous Facebook bragging rights: We learned today that Lacoste -- they of the famous alligator logo -- just hit 10 million Facebook fans. According to the research firm Stylophane, the clothing maker is one of only six fashion brands to hit that mark. Converse leads the list, which also includes Adidas, Burberry, Levis and Nike.

So what's the big deal for companies who just want to be "liked" by you? Our senior business correspondent Bob Moon says it's a lot more than a popularity contest.

Bob Moon: Like, really -- we haven't counted this many "likes" since Valley Girls were all the rage.

"Valley Girl" song: Like, I dunno...it's gonna be cool...like so awesome...it's like tubular...it's just like, I dunno...like, totally!

Companies totally love it when you like them -- so much so that the research firm Webtrends estimates they spend, on average, a little more than a dollar in promotional costs to "motivate" that mouse click. Jared Roy heads global client services for Webtrends.

Jared Roy: It has more power than someone opting into an email list or a mailing list, because they've actively gone out there and said, you know what, I like this brand. I want to receive information from this brand.

Buddy Media consults with companies on their social media advertising. The firm's Joe Ciarallo says some companies spend more than others getting you to "like" them, but giving away freebies only goes so far.

Joe Ciarallo: It's fine to give people a reason to show up and to "like," but you want to make sure that they're actually the right people, folks that are generally a fan of our brand -- or are they just people who are clicking on this just to get the deal, and they're never coming back?

Ciarallo says creating your own Facebook community can be an especially effective way to target loyal customers.

Ciarallo: Those folks, if you're doing this right, are more likely to buy from you, they're more likely to recommend you to their friends.

There's concern, though, that you might not be so quick to "like" things in the future if you really knew what you're getting yourself into. Just a few weeks ago, Facebook settled a federal class-action lawsuit. It agreed to make it clear that when users click "like" on a company or product, their names and photos could end up being used to promote it.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.