Several weeks back, troubled British entertainment giant HMV was brought to its knees by a rogue social media intern who live-tweeted the company’s latest downsizing efforts. (“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired,” one of the tweets claimed. “Exciting!!”)

Later, fast food giant Burger King was still recovering from the “horsemeat” controversy that had kept them in the headlines for weeks when their brand suffered another blow: a hacked Twitter account. Hours passed before the account, which was now singing rival McDonalds’ praises, was finally brought back under control.

The offending tweets have since been deleted, but you can’t keep a secret from the Internet. Gone unaddressed, a few hours are all it takes to deal serious, lasting damage to a brand’s reputation, 140 characters at a time.

Obviously, it takes time for business culture to adapt to change, but there’s no good reason for established businesses, some of which have spent decades growing and fortifying their brand, to still make headlines for their Twitter trip-ups so late in the game.

In short, what happened to HMV and Burger King doesn’t have to happen to you. With a little effort, any company can take measures to stop Twitter fiascos before they heat up.

Stop Leaving It To Interns
At first glance, delegating Tweeting responsibility to a social media intern or junior employee makes sense; this technology grew up with them. It’s already integrated into their lives. But one person’s experience with any tool does not guarantee they will use it wisely (if it did, more people would use their turn signals).

No matter whether you have a few dozen followers or a few hundred thousand, your brand has the potential to be seen by millions of users worldwide. Why trust a less established, less seasoned team member with that level of responsibility?

Instead of leaving one person in charge of the compose/send Tweeting process, let a younger employee compose tweets separately and hand them off to a more experienced team member whom you can trust with the account password, and let them give the OK. Break up the process so tweets can be reviewed, edited, and if necessary, denied.

Not only does this kill inappropriate tweets before they go live, it stokes collective investment in your online marketing strategy, and the editing process helps the younger employee gain a better understanding of how you want your brand communicated.

Always be Watching
Twitter is a never-ending get-together, and it goes on with or without you. Every moment you aren’t watching is a moment when something can go wrong. Even a lapse of a few hours can make all the difference between an ordinary day at the office and a company-wide panic attack.

You don’t have eyes in the back of your head, but you do have a team. Break up responsibility and work in shifts to make sure trouble is spotted quickly, and have contacts in place in the event that things go awry.

Obviously, the amount of time you devote to your Twitter page should be proportionate to the size of your team and the presence you are trying to build. The more visible your company is to the world, the more time you should spend keeping watch, but with a little scheduling and delegation, even a smaller team can keep a weathered eye out for trouble.

Remember: cruise control keeps the wheels turning, but you still can’t fall asleep at the wheel.

Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe
Demand is increasing for Twitter to start offering more options for securing accounts. That demand is valid, but it doesn’t help you right now. There are solutions everywhere, particularly when it comes to third party social media management platforms.

Your account password is like the key to your house: you should only give it out to people you can trust, and if it ever falls into the hands of people you don’t trust, you change the lock. Seek out a social media management suite that allows Single Sign On (or SSO). That way, the account can be accessed by multiple people using different sign-on information without revealing the master login data. And to prevent panic, have a “killswitch” plan in place, and train your proven employees to carry it out — because the worst usually happens when you least expect it.

But ultimately, if you choose to use Twitter, the best advice you’ll ever get is simply to care about what you’re doing with it, and train your team to care about it, too. Half-hearted strategies yield half-baked results, so stop looking at it as a foreign appendage to your marketing strategy, and work it into the spirit of your corporate culture.