The Digital Service Squad (DSS) is a relatively recent initiative offered through Community Futures to help small businesses with their online presence. This can include help with Google My Business, a website, social media accounts, or basic computer problems, among other issues.
The DSS’s services are available free of charge to registered small businesses in Alberta with less than 50 employees. Unfortunately, the DSS’s services are not available to non-profit organizations, franchises, or charities. DSS services are offered throughout Alberta, with about 20 teams throughout the province.
Ian Butler, the local DSS member operating out of the Community Futures Yellowhead East (CFYE) office, reports that there has been a very positive response from all of his clients. Butler notes, “The most common thing I hear is ‘It’s such a relief,’ basically because I understand it can be pretty stressful if you don’t know what you’re doing, what you’re looking for. Especially when it comes to setting up social media or a Google page.” A lot of business owners are relieved to get these tasks finally finished.
Time is a significant factor, with many owners not having the time to research these topics as they are dealing with staff shortages, among other issues. Butler can work at whichever pace fits for the individual business owner; there isn’t a rush to get it all done right away.
While some people have approached Butler looking for a social media manager or someone to build their website, these services are outside of the DSS’s role. The DSS isn’t meant to manage the business’s online presence or create its digital content.
Butler travels to the communities served by CFYE about once a month. He is available to meet in person in Whitecourt or when he’s in the local communities, but he can accommodate meetings through videoconferencing or by phone.
The DSS will help to plan an individual strategy for each business’s online presence depending on its capabilities and what the owner is looking for. This isn’t a “one size fits all” scenario.
Butler is working on some upcoming new initiatives, including offering a basic digital audit and a monthly newsletter. He encourages anyone who might be interested to send him an email.
When asked if there was anything that he wanted people to know about the DSS program, Butler said, “Don’t hesitate to reach out, even if you don’t think you qualify.”
Ian Butler is available by phone at (780) 706-3500 or by email (email@example.com). More information about the local DSS is available at yellowheadeast.albertacf.com/services/dep with the latest updates posted on the CFYE Facebook page (facebook.com/communityfuturesye).
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette