Should Brands Go Dark on Social Media When a Tragedy Occurs?

It seems like more so than ever, we’re waking up to devastating news when we turn on the TV or check into our social media accounts. You’ve probably wondered what your brand should do in relation to current events or after a tragedy occurs. While it may be very tempting to hop into the social conversation via the trending hashtags, not so fast. Take your marketing hat off for a minute and put your personal hat on. Put yourself in the shoes of a person, not a brand. Should your brand go dark on social media when a tragedy occurs?

We’ve seen lots of social media brand fails, and some are maybe even “understandable” to a degree— you can at least see how they might have arrived at the idea, though regrettable. I saw several brand fails around Carrie Fisher’s death, but one that sticks out in my memory is from Cinnabon.


Cinnabon tried to pay tribute to Princess Leia’s  hair “buns” when they should have just gone dark that day. The world could have dealt with one day without tweets about cinnamon rolls. The worst part is the product placement.

For instances like celebrity deaths, it’s very likely that individuals will want to mourn or acknowledge it on their personal social media accounts. That does not mean brands should do the same. Unless your brand had a personal relationship with the person, steer clear. Simply don’t post. You’d rather be safe than sorry, right?

Another rule of thumb in the wake of current events or tragedies—if it’s something that every media outlet is headlining, just go dark. Make sure to check your pre-scheduled social media posts so they do not automatically go out and risk your brand coming across as unsympathetic. Resist the temptation to put out a message on the tragedy, unless your brand has a close tie to the situation. Whatever you do, definitely don’t try to make it about your brand or products, like one Texas mattress company did, promoting a ‘Twin Towers’ sale.

When in doubt, go dark.

Looking for help with your day-to-day community management, social media or crisis strategy? Contact us.

Ignite Social Media