This article explores one of the key enablers of beyond $4$G wireless networks leveraging small cell network deployments, namely proactive caching. Endowed with predictive capabilities and harnessing recent developments in storage, context-awareness and social networks, peak traffic demands can be substantially reduced by proactively serving predictable user demands, via caching at base stations and users' devices. In order to show the effectiveness of proactive caching, we examine two case studies which exploit the spatial and social structure of the network, where proactive caching plays a crucial role. Firstly, in order to alleviate backhaul congestion, we propose a mechanism whereby files are proactively cached during off-peak demands based on file popularity and correlations among users and files patterns. Secondly, leveraging social networks and device-to-device (D2D) communications, we propose a procedure that exploits the social structure of the network by predicting the set of influential users to (proactively) cache strategic contents and disseminate them to their social ties via D2D communications. Exploiting this proactive caching paradigm, numerical results show that important gains can be obtained for each case study, with backhaul savings and a higher ratio of satisfied users of up to $22\%$ and $26\%$, respectively. Higher gains can be further obtained by increasing the storage capability at the network edge.