Source: Twitter

While Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) logged-out user base has been well publicized and analyzed, one audience that's getting less attention is the number of users that sign up and then rarely ever visit the site again. A recent survey from Cowen and Company found that more people that signed up for Twitter in the U.S. use it less than once per month than those that use it at least monthly. In other words, Twitter's previous users are a larger audience than its monthly active users.

These survey results show a failure on Twitter's part to create a valuable experience for new users. That's a problem Twitter is working diligently to resolve, and once it does it could have a notable impact on the company's ability to grow its monthly active user base.

Re-engaging old users
At last week's analyst day, Twitter went over certain strategies it has and is working on to encourage users to reengage with the service.

The first is highlighting content when users log in with a "While you were away ..." list of tweets at the top of users' timelines. While this doesn't directly call users back to Twitter, it provides them with information Twitter believes that user is most interested in. The idea is that if a user continually sees great content every time he or she logs into Twitter, then that user will naturally want to sign in more often and create a habit of checking Twitter.

Second, the company is pushing alerts and breaking news to "at-risk" users through its mobile app and via email. It's coupling this with its interest graph and location information on its users to provide highly relevant content to users who haven't logged in in a long time.

Finally, the company is pushing trending and popular content to users. It started with core users, and it's now able to target less-engaged users. In fact, this feature drives 8 million users to log in every day.

The company believes there's an opportunity to bring these features to an even wider audience and reengage users who haven't logged in or are at risk of leaving the platform altogether.

Keeping new users engaged
On top of keeping people who signed up a few months or a year ago engaged, Twitter is working to show new users the value of Twitter and make them more engaged from the get-go.

To that end, the company made the onboarding process simpler, reducing the number of steps from 12 to six and using easily understood language. The changes led to a 10% increase in the number of people who complete the signup process and a 190% increase in the number of accounts new users follow. What's more, the accounts users follow are more tailored toward self-selected interests instead of popular accounts.

Twitter is also experimenting with different ways to suggest content to new users. The company found a positive impact from suggesting content based on a person's location when they sign up. Those users logged in more often in the first 30 days and were more likely to stick around after the first month.

A long way to go
Twitter's inability to keep its users engaged is a much bigger problem than its logged-out visitors. At least the company has the potential to monetize its logged-out audience. But if Twitter doesn't show its users the value of making a habit out of logging in to Twitter, it won't be able to meaningfully grow its audience.

The good news for Twitter is that more people have never used the service than have already given it a shot, even in the relatively mature U.S. market. That means Twitter is just getting started, and if it can learn from its past experiences it has the potential to achieve its strategic goal of reaching the largest daily audience in the world.