As a regular Instagrammer, you’ve probably interacted with a bot before, even if you didn’t recognize it at first. This useful tool allows accounts to follow, like, and comment on posts throughout Instagram in order to increase engagement.

When used successfully, Instagram bots can lead to real followers, like, and comments. According to SocialCaptain, good automation bots save you time, increase engagement 150 times better than normal, and lead to the real deal. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can lead to awkward situations that make your brand and interactions look like utter spam.

Any Instagrammer who is new to world of bots should move forward carefully. There are a lot of bad brands out there that will ruin your reputation and potentially get you banned from Instagram. If you want to enjoy the benefits of automation without the negative effects, here are some things you should do.

Choose a Quality Software

This is perhaps the most important rule when using Instagram bots. There are many, many options for software that will crawl the web and get you followers, but don’t hand over your money until you’re sure you’re dealing with the best. Do research and read reviews to make sure the software will work. Remember that price does not always reflect quality.

Along with engaging high-quality software, prioritize quality content. “The most important thing when trying to attract fans, customers and business is to concentrate on content quality, because if you reach out to all potential customers with average or even just good content, you’ll be wasting your time,” says an article from Freelancer.

Your bot is only as good as the quality of the account you use. You can attract new followers with a good bot, but it’s the relevance and value of your content that will keep them there.

Be Careful with the Comment Feature

In order to learn whether or not Instagram bots would really work for engaging real followers, Hootsuite’s Evan LePage tested a few different bots to see what worked best. One of them had a comment feature that posted generic comments like “Nice one,” or a smiley face on posts.

Unfortunately, his automation efforts created some very awkward interactions. He related several awkward situations, the worst of which was when, he “commented ‘your pics > my pics’ on a selfie of a boy who was clearly in middle school,” LePage shared. “In fact, his account was composed of only four pictures, three of them selfies. I felt uncomfortable. The teenage boy told me I was being modest.”

Another Instagrammer shared the unfortunate situation in which her Instagram bot shared a smiley face on the page of a girl who was mourning her friend’s death. Not only does this damage the kinds of engagement you’re seeking on the page, but it can also be very hurtful to your followers – definitely not what you’re going for.

So, if you plan to use the comment feature with your Instagram bot, be very careful. Generic phrases that could go either way are best, but most Instagram experts will tell you to avoid the comment feature altogether. LePage reported getting only 12 followers in the same number of hours from using the comment feature, which is hardly worth risking your brand’s reputation.

Practice on a Dummy Account

Although LePage did not have the best experience with the comment feature, he did learn a lot of valuable lessons about automation that helped him with future campaigns. The same principle can and should be applied to your use of Instagram bots.

The best success had with bots begins with mastering the craft. A lot of this will be trial and error, and since you don’t want it to reflect badly on your brand, try it out on a dummy account. Create a couple of fake business accounts and test out your preferred bot software on them.

You’ll learn a lot as you go, and if your account gets banned for being spammy, it will not reflect badly on your real brand. By the time you’re ready to try out the real thing, you’ll be an expert who can get the best results.

Specify Account Targets

According to Eduardo Morales of Medium, most automation tools allow you to add your targets to direct the bot’s path. This is something you should take advantage of to have the best effect.

“Which are the Instagram account that have the highest density of your target audience? Those are the accounts that should be your targets,” he says. “The better you are at identifying the right targets, the more effective your bot will be.”

He also stresses the importance of adding hashtag targets, programming your actions correctly, and applying necessary filters. These pre-programming efforts will allow you to engage with real followers rather than attracting useless accounts.

Weed Out the Bad Accounts

Once your bot has done its thing, your work isn’t over yet. You’ll want to review the people that you’ve started following as a result of the bot’s efforts. Having too many fake or spam accounts on your followers’ list will reflect badly on your brand, not to mention make it very unpleasant to scroll through your feed.

Jordi Castella of ChatbotsLife recommends using an unfollow scheduler to take care of the spam. “Instagram has a limit of 7500 people you can follow,” he says. “To hide a bot, the best technique is to have a 50% ratio  –  That means for example if you have 4000 followers, your unfollow schedule should start as soon as you reach 2000 followings. You can also schedule the unfollow function for a specific time of the day.”

Since you want your feed to be filled with inspiring content and posts from your competitor (so you can monitor them), this will help you achieve a more holistic view of Instagram marketing for your business while maintaining your reputation.