What is the single smartest thing you have ever done on social media — ever — to grow your company’s brand? (Be specific!)

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

1. Form Alliances

“The smartest thing I’ve ever done on social media was find a group who had a much larger audience than I did — who had the same interest I did, but weren’t direct competition. I’m a landscape/nature photographer, and I found that weathermen were really interested in my images and loved sharing them with their audiences. This has definitely allowed me to expand my audience.”

Angela Pan, Angela B. Pan Photography

2. Post Surveys

“I introduced surveys and votes that readers could participate in. I also offered a chance to win prizes for those who participated. Social media enthusiasts love contests and surveys, and they’re often willing to participate if there’s a reward, such as a gift card.”

Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

3. Use Giveaways

Social media audiences are passionate about sweepstakes, contests and free giveaways — almost every brand uses them to grow their social media followings. Using giveaways has been a boon to our business at Poshly. We’re able to engage with a wider audience within our community because people are always excited for the opportunity to try complimentary new products.

Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

4. Merge the Traditional With the Innovative

“All of my offline channels, such as my Wall Street Journal column, have always had a digital/social component. Because of the fact that a journalist on Twitter used to be unique, I caught a lot of early attention that led to a robust following, which is beneficial to my brand today.”

Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work

5. Ask Fans to Help Design Products

“Modify’s tagline is “Show Your Colors.” We want to produce products that our fans love, not designs that our team thinks are cool. To that end, our best social efforts make it ALL about the audience. Fans name watches and pick colors and designs. We name watches after them, feature their photos and highlight fans of the month. By showing that we listen to customers, fans share their preferences!”

Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

6. Engage!

“Engage with potential clients and media outlets through social media. Show that you care about more than just your agenda, engage with them on broad industry topics or participate in miscellaneous conversations to build rapport. Be genuine! It’s an excellent way to build potential opportunities and create a network of mutually beneficial connections.”

Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

7. @Mention One Inspiration Daily

“Several years back, we launched a Twitter account specifically to thank and express our love for our clients, customers and inspirations. To this day, we send out one @mention to any of the aforementioned users in hopes of garnering some sort of acknowledgement. The further we reach, the more the word gets spread. We’ve successfully targeted influencers with this, which has led to new business.”

Logan Lenz, Endagon

8. Cross-Promote

“We engage in cross-promotion with most of the major brands in our space because we reach out to them and offer it. Every week, we’ll swap the best content with the best brands so each of our audiences hear about one another.”

Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

9. Grow Company Email Lists

“Our company decided to use social media to grow our email lists. As Facebook decreased the amount of people who see status updates, our email lists became that much more valuable. Incorporating email into social media has really helped grow our company brand in a cost-effective way.”

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

10. Ask Questions

“We asked a short question, which got a lot of engagement. “Would you rather give up sugar or caffeine?” It was fun to see how addicted people are to both substances.”

Joe Barton, Barton Publishing

11. Run Facebook Ads

“The smartest thing I’ve ever done was run Facebook ads. That may not be terribly specific, but the moment I decided that it was worth it to spend some money and jump forward with getting traffic was the moment I started establishing myself as an expert.”

Brian Moran, Get 10,000 Fans

12. Hire Someone Else

“Hire someone else to manage it. Entrepreneurs are busy, so often that is a piece that can be neglected. Having the right talent managing social media is imperative to brand success.”

Ziver Birg, ZIVELO