- Keeping up-to-date with new releases/breweries/events
- Meeting people to hang out with
- Setting up trades
- General knowledge
Instagram's visual platform is perfect for a craft beer community since so much about beer is visual: the beer itself, label artwork, glassware, bars, breweries, etc. It let's people share and discuss all these elements easily. Plus you can see what's hitting the market ("oh look 'x' must've been released since my #@$#!! feed is full of 'x' pics) and get informal opinions on beers.
I think one of the best things about Instagram is that the community is less intimidating than some of the other beer focused ones like beeradvocate.com. In my experiences people are friendlier and fairer when it comes to trades.
The biggest thing I've gotten from Instagram? My current Indy beer friends. The majority of the people I hang out with I met through Instagram.
So you want to be an Instagram beer star? Slow down there tiger. With any network it's going to take some time and effort to build; people are not going to just start liking your photos, following you, or conversing with you when you're new. Getting started on Instagram is a lot like getting started on twitter. The best way to get started is by using #hashtags to search the vast cluttered rabbit hole that is Instagram. Doing this will lead you to people you may want to follow. To get you started there are some pretty standard hashtags that the beer community uses:
#beergeek (and other variations)
#(insert name of brewery/beer)
I would recommend looking at the other media on their profile before "committing" to follow someone as you'll find that your feed (the media that the people you follow post) can quickly get cluttered with things you don't care about... you may have seen their one beer picture in a land of poo (literally). I know some people, like Andrew, have a "minimum beer photo percentage" threshold someone must pass before he'll follow, and I generally have some guidelines as well.
Once you follow someone hopefully they'll follow you back (liking and commenting on their pictures usually helps). The other thing you can do is figure out which of your beer buddies are already on Instagram. Chances are they take photos of beer and follow other like-minded folk, so you look at who they follow and do the same; If they're really nice they'll give you a shout out. I picked up over a 100 followers one day because an individual with a ton of followers reposted a picture of mine. Just be patient. It took me a really long time to get people following me.
As with any community there's some bad things. It's pretty common that when posting a rare beer picture you'll get slammed with trade requests. If you're all about trading then it's not an issue, but unsolicited requests can get tiresome. Also, the beer giveaway (aka trying to get followers) meme is driving me nuts at the moment.
Take your time, see what's out there, and figure out what works best for you. As with everything craft beer related, it's about having fun and finding people to share the experience. You can look for us on Instagram while you're there:
El Duque- lukelofland