It is a hit. The force behind this hit depends on style and intended volume, but in general it is a note, it needs to be played in a controlled way, and it needs to be in time. There are plenty of "accent tap" or "bucks" exercises which will be helpful to practice. Of course, a prerequisite is to practice taps (ghost notes) on their own. They're ultimately just notes, except quieter, and this is achieved primarily by not moving the stick as far.
The hard part of playing ghost notes among accents is what is traditionally called the "downstroke"- that is, you stop the stick at a low height, ready to play a tap, immediately after playing a loud accent. Doing this without excessive tension is really is a matter of fine muscle coordination. Then there is the "upstroke" after the tap (ghost note) is played. This isn't really too complex, you just lift the stick right after playing the note. A note played that low doesn't give much rebound.
In my very first drum class, we practiced playing "upstrokes" (low to high), "downstrokes" (high to low), "full strokes" (high to high, though I think we used a different name back then), and "taps" (low to low). These really are the basics of snare drum technique.
Now, of course, when I go to play drums, I don't think about any of this. You focus on fundamentals in deliberate practice, so that they become natural, and then you don't have to think about them anymore, except for the occasional refresher practice.