It’s been seven months since we launched Kik’s Bot Shop, and we’ve seen more than 20,000 bots created in that time. We’ve also approved more than 150 bots to be featured in the Bot Shop, following strict standards to ensure a high-quality experience for our users. To date, Kik users have exchanged about two billion messages with bots.

Based on this experience, we’re sharing our insights to help developers build the best bots and increase their chances of snaring the attention of an audience.

Here are four tips that have risen to the top from what we’ve learned:

1. Brainstorm before you build

Before you start writing your first line of code, make sure you have a well-thought-out direction. Aside from cool features that could show off your technical prowess, what purpose will the bot serve, and how will it make users’ lives better? Will it entertain? Facilitate connection between users? Provide advice? Help users make a decision? Determine what the bot will actually do and use that as your guidepost.

Next, do some research to determine how your proposed bot is different from what’s already out there — and make sure you’re offering something new or unique. You’ll also want to consider the user experience: What do you want to make the user think and feel? Will you build an experience that’s strictly user-to-bot, or will users be able to invite your bot into conversations with other users? Either way, you’ll want to design the experience with your end goal in mind.

2. Set objectives

Set objectives for your bot, whether or not you have a business model (or want one). Are you focused on content distribution, brand engagement, or utility? This will narrow your bot’s scope and also define what success looks like – and how you know you’ve achieved it. For example, if you’re aiming for engagement with your brand, focus on metrics such as read rate, share rate, and clickthrough rate. And if you’re having trouble with this step, think about how your bot feeds into your marketing, business, and overall corporate objectives.

3. Keep it simple

While picking a name for your bot opens the doors to creativity, choose a name that makes sense. After seeing more than 20,000 bots on our platform, we’ve learned if a name is short and simple, users will be able to remember it. And while it’s fun to entertain the idea of incorporating anything other than text characters in the name, you’ll want to avoid it. Combining text characters with symbols or emoji leads to confusion, and makes it difficult for users to discover or remember your bot.

Similarly, think about your bot’s personality — will it be formal? Sarcastic? Playful? Make sure whatever you decide on, you’re consistent with it. You’ll want your bot to have a similar name, language, and overall experience. Also, make the most of multimedia. The bot environment now allows for sending video, GIFs, links, and image message types to users, so think creatively about what you build and the experience you want to present to users.

4. Keep the conversation going

When you’ve got something you think users might want to interact with, it’s time to take your bot game to the next level. Start by chatting. Ensure your bot initiates conversation when a user is ready to chat (or in Kik, scans the bot’s Kik code). And remember, first impressions count: The first message a user sees should be concise, provide a brief glimpse into your bot’s purpose, and prompt engagement.

Once the user is engaged, develop and present suggested responses for them to choose. Suggested responses facilitate the flow of conversation and eliminate the chance for confusion on what a user needs to say in order to access the bot’s full potential. You can also gather information on your audience through suggested responses to optimize conversation flow and content. For example, get the user to answer some basic questions about themselves or record their opinion on hot topics. Their resulting answers can then help you broadcast tailored messages to specific user segments, rather than giving the same message to to every subscriber. Be sure to include a catch-all response for messages that don’t have a response, and always redirect the user back into the intended flow of conversation, another great use of suggested responses.

Lastly, remember to be conversational. Language used in suggested responses should sound and feel natural (e.g., use “What else can you do?” instead of simply “Back”).

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to developing a successful bot.