How I Did It: Social Media Star S. Lynn Cooper
Words: Nesa Mangal
An entrepreneur since the age of 16, S. Lynn Cooper tells us how she built a business while always being the youngest person in the room.
Thirty-four year old social media strategist S. Lynn Cooper has been serving up her digital branding expertise for years. Known as a “digital instigator” for her ability to accelerate recognition, opportunities, and profitability for businesses through social media, Cooper’s work has caught the attention of the Obama Administration, Black Enterprise magazine, and MSNBC.
Cooper’s entrepreneurial spirit and fortitude brought her from starting her first company at just 16 to launching Socially Ahead in 2010, a social media training and consulting agency based in Washington D.C. with services that include digital branding, content creation, and fan engagement.
“I really do not have a typical client which is why I love what I do,” Cooper says. “It provides me with the ability to be flexible and learn about various industries.”
Between crafting digital strategies for her clients and making appearances at conferences and news programs, she spends her time with her husband Ralph and her children Jaelynn, 8, and Ralph IV, 2. Cooper spoke with mater mea about her career‘s past and present, and her hopes for her future—along with some great tips for anyone who wants to start her own social media business!
What made you decide to launch your first company when you were still a teenager?
The first company came out of necessity and a love for music [and] dancing. [Just like] any teenager, I wanted to have the latest fashions and learned from an early age that my parents were responsible for my necessities and me for my wants. I had a group of friends who were DJs and we began promoting and hosting local teen parties. We had no idea what we were doing, but we were all in it together and had some pretty decent nights where we made money and others where we just broke even.
I knew I could take my talents to small-business owners and show them the power of social media.
Walk us through your career path from those days as a club promoter to now.
The career path has been a very unconventional one. During college I worked at a record store and bartended. From there I interned at Sony, which lead me to a street team position for Columbia Records. [Then] I launched an entertainment company called Illustrious Entertainment where I managed Hip-Hop music artists and did street promotions for other brands.
Of course these things were not satisfying to my parents, so I went and got what they deemed a “real job” while continuing to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do. The real jobs included working for the Department of Defense as a special assistant. I worked for a total of three years and I really enjoyed the fast pace and complex assignments. [Then] I launched True Passion Media, which was a public relations firm [I] sold to a competitor, and in 2010 I launched Socially Ahead.
How did you get interested in social media management?
I realized that everyone was talking about how much social media was needed for your brand, but no one was explaining how to do it in a way that was informative and fun. I realized early on that marketing had shifted from such a strong focus on traditional public relations, TV, and radio. Stories needed to be told in order for people to buy-in to content. I had the opportunity to work on a digital marketing project with seven-time platinum artist Roscoe Dash. With [his] viral success, I knew I could take my talents to small-business owners and show them the power of social media.
How did Socially Ahead take off?
Socially Ahead came out of necessity/ I had just been laid off from a contract at the United States State Department and a week later my husband had the same hand dealt to him. Rather than panic, I reached out to family. My father said, "You've always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I will help fund you to take this to the next level." I then hit the pavement hard in search of small-business clients and stumbled upon an organization called Success in the City, a group of highly successful DC-based women entrepreneurs and executives. The founder Cynthia de Lorenzi allowed me to manage the group's social media activities and from there doors began to open.
What social media trends are you most excited about?
Video [and] mobile. I love that people have the power to be content creators and really create a niche market for themselves versus waiting to be picked up by mainstream media.
What obstacles have you faced in your career and how did you get a grip on them?
Most of the obstacles were because of my age. I seemed to always be the youngest person on a project. I conquered that by always going above and beyond for my clients and showing that I was mature, dedicated, and professional.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I have been blessed to have a very vibrant career and I’m only 34 years old. I am proud that the work I've done has been recognized by the Obama Administration. In fact, based upon my social media influence, I have been fortunate to [have] been invited to the White House twice this year.
How did you get to where you are today?
I haven’t been afraid to take risks and to go against the grain. I have always been a person full of ideas and willing to take steps towards implementing something if I felt it could be viable. It’s been through a lot of hard work and sacrifices. Being a business owner is not an easy feat, nor is it for the faint of heart. So there are a lot of all nighters and strategic moves to be made in order to achieve success.
What advice would you give to any woman looking to start her own business?
First things first: Really ask yourself if you are prepared for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Can you financially deal with your bills if a client does not pay? Do you have the support system to make all of this happen? Sit down with your family and discuss the ways entrepreneurship can positively and negatively affect your household.
Being a business owner is not an easy feat, nor is it for the faint of heart.
Take one step at a time and carefully plot how you will launch your business, even if it means only starting it as a side hustle until you can make it work for you!
And if they want to turn their love of social media into a business what should they know?
Don't start an agency because social media is hot right now. Know that PR is not social media—they are two different forms of communication. Secondly, be fully vested in learning everything you can to position your clients ahead of the curve and not just fluff!
Now that we know how you came into your career, can you tell us how you stepped into motherhood?
Quite honestly motherhood was not in my initial life plans. While I love children and my parents have been married 40+ years, I really had no intention of getting married or having children. I learned that I was pregnant with my now 8-year-old daughter after leaving an abusive relationship. Having my daughter under those circumstances was stressful to say the least, but [it was] the best decision I ever made. She changed me as a woman.
I was fortunate to meet my husband and father of my 2-year-old son about a year and a half after having my daughter. While I was very apprehensive in pursuing another relationship, I was blessed that I met a wonderful man who understood we came as package deal and stepped up to raise my daughter as his own.
Being a mother personally took me from being a girl to being a woman. Becoming a mother made me responsible for the well-being of another human being. It made me reflect on who I was as a person and made me focus on the things I needed to correct. It is an exciting, precious, and downright scary path that no one can prepare you for!
What's next for you in your career path?
I am focusing on a couple of different projects right now because I believe you always have to have multiple streams of income. While I am not ready to let the cat out of the bag as of yet, I will say that I will be concentrating on more niche content creation for online and mobile platforms.
Would you like to share your career story with us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.