Oprah Winfrey tweeted herself into controversy during the Grammy Awards, necessitating an apology from the beloved television personality. A moment or two after the start of Oprah’s Next Chapter, her interview show on her struggling OWN network, she sent a tweet suggesting her followers watch.

Some assumed it was an impersonator, some thought it sounded “desperate,” and others interpreted it as a friendly reminder. But to the folks over at Nielsen, it was against the rules.

Social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk was one who doubted the account was actually maintained by Winfrey herself when he first commented on the offending tweet to his 980,000 Twitter followers, but soon received confirmation from Sheri Salata, her executive producer. Another skeptic was Ian Schafer, CEO of interactive marketing agency Deep Focus, who similarly thought Winfrey was too industry-savvy to have sent such a tweet until it was verified. Journalist Brian Stelter also noticed the breach of the Nielsen rules, and turned his questioning into an article for the New York Times.

Winfrey deleted the tweet several hours later, and sent a statement to Stelter that read: “I removed the tweet at the request of Nielsen. I intended no harm and apologize for the reference.” Of course, by that time several screen grabs of the tweet were in circulation online (see below).

A Nielsen spokesperson said that the show’s ratings will be marked with an asterisk to signify a “possible biasing effect.” Since Winfrey has nearly 9 million followers on Twitter, it’s quite possible that some heeded her suggestion.

Related links:

New York Times’ Media Decoder – Oprah Apologizes for Tweet Encouraging Nielsen Viewers to Tune In

Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker – Oprah Winfrey’s Twitter flub

NY Daily News – Oprah Winfrey apologizes for tweet that may have improperly asked Nielsen subscribers to tune into OWN

Ian Schafer’s blog – Is @Oprah real?