Recently, TechCrunch announced that CrunchBase, their database wiki of technology companies/people, will integrate with LinkedIn. You can now click a button on CrunchBase and see if you are linked to any of the employees at any particular startup. BusinessWeek has featured the same integration on its site.

HotPads connections on CrunchBase

This announcement really got me thinking about similar possibilities in other industries. Take the apartment industry for example. Is it valuable to prospective renters to know if they know anyone who lives in a community where they’re considering renting? Do they have mutual friends or share similar interests with many of the current residents? Do they take reviews more seriously if they know who wrote them?

What about Privacy?
Privacy could be seen as an issue, but potential issues can be avoided if users are given the ability to control the information from their account. The major social websites are already moving toward this quickly — Facebook wants to give each user the ability to control who sees every piece of information about them, and sites like Flickr provide grouping tools with which users can determine how info gets shared (Everyone, Friends Only, Family Only, etc.).

The Opportunity
Apartment companies — particularly those marketing around specific themes or catering to college students — could certainly benefit from “relationship” features like this on their website, social profile pages and other listings. As Facebook, MySpace and Google move their data-sharing initiatives forward, an apartment community’s web presence could easily be augmented with personalized information for each prospect based on the social networks that those prospects have already joined. Is there a better way to build a great community than by starting before the resident ever even sees the property?

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