2016 has seen a lot of major celebrity deaths. Most recently Kentucky's own Muhammad Ali. While I think paying some sort of tribute online could be a great sign of respect, I think there's a difference between paying a tribute and self serving your content in the name of clickbait.
A couple of examples that happened within 24 hours of his death. I took screenshots since I didn't want to encourage more links to these sites:
And then when Prince died:
The same could be said for brands who attempt to jump into 9/11 tribute tweets. Just stop.
Sometimes brand tributes work very well
There are times and places where brands have a place in tributes for deaths or national tragedies. As an example, here's how Chevorlet paid a social media tribute to Prince upon his death:
This works well and is very appropriate. Why? Little Red Corvette is a very famous Prince song. Chevorlet makes the Corvette. Having a caption saying "Baby that was much too fast" makes a nod to the song lyric and the unfortunate brevity of Prince's life. It's not self serving but a tip of the hat to the deceased singer.
So what should brands do?
Take a step back and ask why you're posting. Is it because your brand has a relevant interjection in the conversation? Do you have a direct connection with the news at hand?
Or are you talking just because it's what everyone else is talking about and you're having social media brand FOMO. If you're beating your head against a wall trying to figure out the perfect post for the event, you may not be a relevant part of the conversation.
Some may argue that not saying anything is insensitive and ignoring an event like that could be perceived as cold. I argue the contrary. Sometimes saying nothing and letting the people who have a relevant voice speak is the most sensible thing a brand can do.
Who is your content serving?